A pond surrounded by grass land

Photo credit: D.J. Cattani


This 3-day virtual conference brings together researchers, students, producers, government, commodity organizations and industry representatives with a range of perspectives to collectively share ideas and experiences about how to improve agricultural sustainability in Canada. Sessions will feature brief presentations followed by facilitated panel discussions exploring the role of Indigenous perspectives in reshaping our food systems, water management and adopting precision technologies for a sustainable future. This year's conference will provide the opportunity for attendees to join a live question and answer session with researchers and industry experts. In addition, the conference will include a hands-on interactive workshop featuring the Holos model, designed to estimate on-farm greenhouse gas emissions, as well as research updates featuring graduate students who will share their findings through short videos.

The conference will offer Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units (CCA CEUs).

Conference Planning Committee

University of Manitoba: Kim Ominski, Emma McGeough, Doug Cattani, Marcos Cordeiro, Mario Tenuta, David Lobb, Anna Rogiewicz, Kyle Bobiwash and Peter Frohlich
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Roland Kroebel, Sarah Pogue, Aaron McPherson
Ducks Unlimited Canada: Connie McLellan, Kristine Tapley
Industry/Farm Production: Melissa Atchison

Conference Hosts

Holos logoAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada





Schedule at a Glance

Day Theme
March 12 Keynote
Crop Management CEUs: 1
The Role of Indigenous Perspectives in Reshaping our Food Systems
Professional Development CEUs: 1.5
March 13 HOLOS Model Workshop
Nutrient Management CEUs: 2 Crop Management CEUs: 0.5
Ted Poyser lecture in soil health
Soil & Water Management CEUs: 1
Water….At the Root of it All
Nutrient Management CEUs: 0.5 Soil & Water Management CEUs: 1
March 14 Adopting Precision Technologies for a Sustainable Future
Crop Management CEUs: 1.5

Day 1 - March 12, 2024 (pm)

1:00-1:10 pm

Welcoming Remarks
Kim Ominski (University of Manitoba) and Roland Kroebel (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Co-chairs
Greeting from Martin Scanlon, Dean (University of Manitoba) and Francois Eudes, Director (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

1:10-2:15 pm

Robin Wall Kimmerer - SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.
What does the earth ask of us: Indigenous knowledge for sustainability

We are showered every day with the gifts of the Earth and yet we are tied to institutions which relentlessly ask what more can we take? Drawing upon both scientific and indigenous knowledges, this talk explores the covenant of reciprocity, how might we use the gifts and the responsibilities of human people in support of mutual thriving in a time of ecological crisis.

2:15-2:30 pm


2:30-3:30 pm

Theme 1: The role of indigenous perspectives in reshaping our food system

Moderator: Kyle Bobiwash - University of Manitoba

  1. Jason Cardinal - Flying Dust First Nation
    Sowing tomorrow: The transformative role of our Flying Dust Market Garden in fostering food sovereignty, self-sustainability, and community building

    This discussion delves into the garden's pivotal role in fostering essential pillars of sustainability within our community. From cultivating food sovereignty to championing self-sustainability practices and fostering a profound sense of community, the Flying Dust Market Garden emerges as a catalyst for positive change. Through this talk, we explore how the garden has become more than just a source of fresh produce; it is a symbol of resilience and interconnectedness. Join us in celebrating the profound impact of the garden in building a sustainable future and fostering stronger community bonds, illustrating the transformative power of collective effort and shared commitment.

  2. Christina Gish Hill – Iowa State University
    "They live such a good life:" Seeds as babies, seeds as ancestors

    Many Indigenous perspectives view the plants in their environments as non-human relatives. They use multiple kin-based nomenclatures to describe these relationships—mother, grandfather, ancestor, and child. Native growers throughout the United States and Canada who are working to revitalize their ancestral foodways describe their relationships with plants, especially corn, like a mother to an infant, a child to her mother, and an ancestor to a descendant. The connections these growers share with these plants go beyond that of nurturing and care. Using these kin terms reminds us that a grower has a responsibility to a plant like that of a parent towards a child, but that the plants also sustain the people as parents sustain their children, and they pass knowledge on to their descendants as ancestors do. Understanding the relationship to plants as relatives can be a powerful way to move our food system away from extraction to reciprocity.

  3. Jill Falcon Ramaker (Anishinaabe) – Montana State University
    Circles & straight lines: an Indigenous environmental history of the buffalo food system

    In the biocultural region of the Northern Plains and Rockies, the great disruption of colonization generated a radical transition from the longest sustained food system on Turtle Island­­–the buffalo culture way of life–to the dominance of industrial agriculture over the biocultural web. These two food systems originate from differing worldviews and accompanying economic structures, the capitalist market economy and the kinship network of exchange, symbolized by two shapes–a line and a circle. From this lens, we will share efforts to rebuild relationships in this biocultural region by the Buffalo Nations Food System Initiative at Montana State University. Aligned with the Buffalo Treaty, we are working for intertribal food sovereignty in the footprint of our traditional food system spanning three Canadian provinces and five US states.

3:30-4:15 pm

Panel discussion

4:15 pm


Day 2 - March 13 2024 (am/pm)

9:00-12:00 pm

HOLOS model workshop

The Holos model is a whole-farm model and software program that estimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on information entered for individual farms. The main purpose of Holos is to test possible ways of reducing GHG emissions from farms. The session will consist of hands on training with the Holos v.4 software and is suitable for anyone with an interest in whole farm modelling. Training will consist of instructor-led demonstrations of how to enter input into the model and process results.

12:00-1:00 pm

Ted Poyser lecture in soil health

Melissa Arcand - University of Saskatchewan and member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6
Depth of a plow: sharing soil health knowledge and education resources with First Nations in the Prairies

First Nations across the prairies promised to share the land to a depth of the plough as part of the Treaties signed with the Crown in the 1870s. Since then, the agricultural promises outlined in the Treaties were not realized for First Nations, while the agricultural industry flourished across western Canada. Despite the historical marginalization of First Nations from the agricultural sector, First Nations in the prairies have a strong relationship to agriculture, primarily through relationships with local farmers who currently lease First Nations reserve land. A strong foundation in the soil sciences and agronomy is therefore important for First Nations land managers who are managing large swaths of agricultural land, yet Indigenous students are underrepresented in these disciplines. I will highlight on-going projects that are aimed to increase access to soil science and agriculture training designed for First Nations audiences. We are partnering with First Nations across the prairies to establish soil health learning circles to share knowledge on soil health and beneficial management practices that respect Indigenous values and incorporate Indigenous knowledge to foster soil health, biodiversity, and resiliency to climate change for First Nations agroecosystems.

1:00-2:00 pm

Student videos - session 1, moderator – Sarah Pogue, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

2:00-3:00 pm

Theme 2: Water….at the root of it all

Moderator – Melissa Atchison, Manitoba Beef Producers

  1. Helen Baulch – University of Saskatchewan
    Water and land: options for managing nutrient runoff to improve water quality

    Nutrient management has the fundamental goal of supporting agricultural production. Yet, there is growing concern about water quality, and effects of agricultural nutrients. The export of nutrients can have an important impact on water quality, leading to cyanobacterial blooms, which can pose risks to humans, livestock, and wildlife. Although agricultural nutrient inputs are often well balanced with removals, only small amounts of nutrients in runoff can lead to blooms. Water quality solutions require continued effort at reducing nutrient runoff, building on place-based insights, and an understanding of key tradeoffs associated with different BMPs. Employing pragmatic options to help keep nutrients on the land will have multiple benefits, and evidence suggests we can do this while still supporting agronomic goals. Research to understand spatial variation in soil nutrients, to ensure agronomic recommendations are informed by current practices, and work to communicate both key pathways of nutrient loss to waters and the high sensitivity of aquatic ecosystems remain key areas for ongoing research and extension.

  2. Willemijn Appels – Lethbridge College
    Challenges and opportunities for irrigated agriculture

    Water is a highly respected commodity in southern Alberta; in this semi-arid region it allows higher yields, wider crop choices, and less uncertainty than dryland practices. However, it is a finite resource that needs to be managed with care. Recent plans to expand the irrigated acreage are being scrutinized by the public after seeing empty reservoirs and low snowpacks. Here, we will discuss how water use efficiencies are being improved at field and watershed scales and what risks (new) irrigation farmers face when confronted with regional droughts.

  3. Ryan Canart - Assiniboine West Watershed District
    Working with water in the agricultural landscape

    An overview of programs offered by the Assiniboine West Watershed District that address on farm water management. A discussion of projects that the organization undertakes to address more community or regional level goals. On farm examples will be used to describe why landowners are motivated to undertake such programs and why the district supports their adoption.

3:00-3:15 pm


3:15-4:00 pm

Panel discussion

4:00-4:45 pm

Barley sandwich – Q and A with industry and researchers

Virtual breakout rooms:
  • Livestock: Jenna Sarich, Tim McAllister, Kim Ominski and Emma McGeough
  • Soils: David Lobb, Mario Tenuta and Roland Kroebel
  • Water: Ryan Canart, Helen Baulch, Willemijn Appels and Marcos Cordeiro
4:45 pm


Day 3 - March 14, 2024 (pm)

1:00-2:00 pm

Student videos - session 2 and voting, moderator – Anna Rogiewicz, University of Manitoba

2:00-3:00 pm

Theme 3: Adopting precision technologies for a sustainable future

Moderator – Marcos Cunha Cordeiro, University of Manitoba

  1. Keshav Singh - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Digital imaging technology in precision agriculture and plant phenotyping: Canadian crops perspective

    For the past few years, remote sensing technology has been widely used in precision agriculture and high-throughput plant phenotyping. Conventional techniques for crop scouting are highly subjective, time-consuming, labour-intensive, and expensive. The traditional methods used in the agriculture sector are being replaced by cutting-edge sensing technologies using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are playing a key role in reducing farm labour and increasing productivity. Novel hyperspectral imaging (HSI) includes the physical concept of imaging and spectroscopy that collects abundant information in hundreds of images at different wavebands. This presentation will share the pathway of the development of digital agriculture tools using advanced systems (robotics and smart sensors) in controlled and field environments. I will also discuss a national perspective on digital transformation to address new challenges in big data management for agriculture research. The proximal and UAV/drone based high-throughput aerial imaging has been used to study canola, cereals and pulse crop phenomics. The presentation will include various case studies from prairies focused on crop monitoring and plant health detection (biotic and abiotic stresses) to optimize better farm management practices. I will discuss applications of Artificial intelligence (AI) in high-throughput phenotyping and large-scale data analysis to build predictive models from digital imagery. The goal is to share key research findings to enhance the overall efficiency of data-driven decision making.

  2. Gabriel Dallago and Stefan Signer- University of Manitoba/Dairy Industry
    Utilizing precision livestock technology to drive on-farm production efficiency and enhance sustainability

    Livestock production systems are increasingly challenged to minimize environmental impacts and enhance their sustainability. An important pathway to achieve this is to increase production efficiency, which involves optimizing the use of resources such as water and feed and ensuring high animal health and welfare standards. With the increasing number of animals per farm and major labour shortage, precision livestock technologies provide a set of data-driven tools to enhance animal monitoring and support farm management decisions, thereby improving overall efficiency. This presentation will discuss how precision livestock technologies can further improve the sustainability of livestock farming, covering both scientific aspects and practical insights of the technologies, therefore providing a comprehensive perspective on the subject.

  3. Sean Thompson – Olds College
    Smart agriculture technologies for your sustainable ranch

    A plethora of challenges facing the agriculture industry have emphasized the need for sustainable management practices on the ranch. Uncertainty around weather conditions, labour shortages and the increasing pressure to reduce our environmental footprint have created a need to implement new technologies and innovative practices that address sustainability. The Olds College Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production (TACLP) has several applied research projects and demonstrations ongoing to evaluate new devices, products and rotational grazing practices that support climate change resiliency and environmental sustainability. First-hand experiences and project results will be presented, with a focus on feasibility and producer adoption.

3:00-3:15 pm


3:15-4:00 pm

Panel discussion

4:00-4:15 pm

Wrap up and concluding remarks
Kim Ominski (University of Manitoba) and Roland Kroebel (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Co-chairs

4:15 pm

Barley sandwich – Q and A with industry and researchers