Sarah Lepp is not a farmer, but her research focuses on bettering the agricultural industry.
The senior research associate first came to Niagara College to complete the Environmental Technology program as a field and lab technician. While she considered consulting in such areas as soil and water sampling for corporations, institutions, or government; she decided instead to study physical geography.
She therefore attended Brock University, co-majoring in physical geography and Great Books/Liberal Studies. “I really love reading and I figured this was a way to get in more time with some great books.”
While still in college, Lepp started working with Agricorp on the plum pox problem across the Niagara region. During her work, a friend encouraged her to apply to Niagara College Research & Innovation. Initially, she worked with the GIS research assistant as well as with environmental students, helping them with projects on the lagoon and tree planting on the Niagara Escarpment. As her experience with research grew, she was given the opportunity of working with the computer programmers on the GIS-based projects. In the summer of 2012, she was promoted from research assistant to senior research associate. Most of her work is done in partnership with farmers, or with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Under the umbrella of precision agriculture, Lepp’s current focus is on projects aimed at both saving farmers money and protecting the environment. For example, she has been working with several computer programmers on rebuilding and redeveloping software called LandMapR, which calculates land classifications. These land classifications help farmers determine which areas of their field render high and low yields, which allows the farmers to adjust the levels of fertilizer across the field.
She is also working on a farm resource optimizer specific to fertilizer application. This application determines how much of each fertilizer to put in certain parts of the field, which promotes higher yields. The application helps farmers save money and helps protect the environment by diminishing the amount of fertilizer runoff in nearby streams.
In her downtime, Lepp can often be found in the kitchen baking, but when the weather turns nice, you might also find her in a nearby park, walking and bouncing on a slackline hung low between the trees. Slacklining is distinct from tightrope walking, in that the line is not held rigid, allowing the participant a feeling of walking across a trampoline.