Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon. (Photo submitted)

COLUMN: Delta well positioned to be a leader in agri-tech

Farmland, industrial sector, port and growing tech landscape means Delta could be an industry leader

By Ravi Kahlon, guest columnist

I come from a long line of farmers. Before immigrating to Canada, my entire family was involved in farming, growing wheat, sugarcane and vegetables. At the age of two I moved to India for a few years and I have clear memories of fields full of crops being plowed methodically by two bulls, with a single farm worker trailing behind them.

You won’t see scenes like those of my childhood on our farms here in Delta, or anywhere else across Canada for that matter. Agriculture is changing rapidly, and the realities of climate change and a growing population mean the years to come will be a time of great challenge in the systems that feed us every day.

But amid these great challenges there are also great opportunities, especially here in Delta. Innovation and technology are already transforming our agriculture industries to help us rise to the challenges we are faced with. With some of the best farmland in the province, a strong industrial sector, access to ports and a growing tech landscape, Delta is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the agricultural technology (agri-tech) that will shape our global food systems in the coming decades.

In 2019, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham asked a group of experts the question: “how can British Columbia lead the next agricultural revolution?” The response, published in the January 2020 report The Future of B.C.’s Food System, included the assertion that with the right groundwork, investments and technology, British Columbia can and will be a world leader in agriculture. Delta is well positioned to be a leader in B.C. and is already playing a key role in developing the agri-tech that will allow the province to be an agricultural tech world leader. One only needs to look around our region to see this work is already well underway.

With headquarters in Delta, EnWave Corporation developed its rapid low-temperature drying method that maintains a product’s colour, flavour and nutrients during dehydration. EnWave’s technology is known for its use in developing popular products like Moon Cheese, a dehydrated cheese sold as a non-perishable snack.

Another organization, Terramera, continues to grow technology that leads to higher-performing organic biopesticides and decreases the need for synthetic chemicals in farming. For those who use the product, this means lower costs, improved productivity and a minimized environmental impact. Terramera also has a goal of reducing synthetic chemicals used in agriculture by 80 per cent, and recently received $45 million USD in financing to help them achieve this goal.

Helping farmers, addressing climate change and increasing food production are top priorities for our government, and Delta can continue to build on the momentum we have created to drive the success of the agriculture sector in our province. This vision will require us to continue to cultivate strong partnerships between the agricultural sector, the private sector and all levels of government. Leading in agri-tech can help us adapt to our changing climate, enhance new economic opportunities for Delta, and leverage the great strength that lies in our agricultural land reserve.

With these tools in our toolbox, we can move Delta and all of B.C. toward the forefront of the agricultural revolution. And in doing so, we’ll bring good jobs and new investments to Delta while stepping up to feed our changing world.

Ravi Kahlon is MLA for Delta North and Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

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