Mackenzie Applied Research Association

Agronomy centre transforms Northern Alberta ag research

A new agronomy centre and workshop has significantly improved the capacity and efficiency of the Mackenzie Applied Research Association (MARA) in Fort Vermilion, Alberta.

The 6,600 square foot facility was made possible through a $300,000 investment from the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) Accelerating Capacity Initiative as well as contributions from local farmers.

“The centre has expanded our research capacity and enhanced our impact, which has significantly advanced agricultural development in the northernmost commercial agriculture region in Canada,” says Naveen Arora, MARA research manager and scientist.

The new facility replaced an older lab and shop that were small, expensive to operate, and in need of repair. It has eliminated the need to outsource many post-harvest research activities as well as the challenging task of sourcing and renting space for extension events.

“We can now host large events and effectively communicate research data to a broader audience through training programs and workshops throughout the year, which has been very helpful for local producers,” explains Arora.

Since the centre opened, two new full-time research positions have been created and filled. The expanded capacity has also attracted industry and private sector partners to Mackenzie County, which has boosted research collaborations and created additional job opportunities in the region.

Greg Newman, who grows legumes, cereals and oil seeds near Fort Vermilion and serves as MARA’s chair, says building a new site with the capacity for high-level research has been a long-term goal of the MARA board.

He sees attracting and retaining talent as a key benefit of the agronomy centre.

“It wasn’t attractive to come up here and work in the old facility, but now we have a safer and cleaner environment that will allow us to continue to expand into the near future,” he says. “Having more staff not only helps the research program but also means individual producers can get help with their own unique issues.”

The agronomy centre is also benefiting the larger community by providing a new indoor space for the annual Mackenzie County Agricultural Fair and Tradeshow.

MARA is a not-for-profit, producer-driven applied research association that conducts unbiased, innovative agriculture, environmental research and extension delivery. The organization’s ultimate goal is to help local producers increase production, reduce costs, and operate in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The WGRF is a farmer-funded and farmer-directed non-profit organization investing in agricultural research that benefits western Canadian producers. To date, more than $240 million has been invested to support diverse crop research projects.

The WGRF has committed $32 million to the Accelerating Capacity Initiative to expand crop research capacity.

Photo credits

MARA’s new agronomy centre and workshop has expanded research capacity, improved efficiency and led to job creation in Fort Vermilion.

The local agriculture community can now gather at MARA’s agronomy centre for extension events and workshops throughout the year.