On Thursday, the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) launched a $5M call for funding focused exclusively on encouraging the expansion of a national network of smart farms.
“We have invested significant resources to planning this initiative because it’s a necessary step in the nationwide adoption of emerging agricultural technologies,” said CAAIN CEO, Kerry Wright. “We currently support a smart farm project that has shown tremendous promise in three distinct areas. First, it validates the use of advanced agricultural technology. Second, it demonstrates the functionality of that equipment to farmers, who can then evaluate the potential return on investment for themselves in a real-world farm setting. Third, it is connected to three post-secondary institutions. They, as a result, now have the tools needed to train the next generation of agriculture industry professionals. The success of this first smart farm project prompted us to develop the continuous intake opportunity we are unveiling today.”
CAAIN’s mandate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is to focus its funding on three pillars of technological advancements essential to the agri-food sector. The first two—robotics & automation and data-driven decision-making—can be validated and demonstrated on smart farms, which comprise the third pillar. CAAIN has structured the program announced Thursday to encourage more entrepreneurs to take up this challenge.
“This is the fifth funding call we have launched in the past two years, and the others have been well received,” explained Wright. “That said, smart farm projects are complex, and it occurred to us that their complexity, coupled with our tight submission timelines and partnership requirements, might challenge the small and medium businesses we are mandated to encourage. That’s why this smart farm program is what’s referred to as ‘continuous intake,’ which means we’re inviting applicants to submit proposals according to their schedules, rather than ours. We will continue to accept submissions until we have committed the entire $5 million set aside for this round of funding.”
When added to the approximately $26M CAAIN will provide to the 24 successful applicants of its first three competitions, as well as the $5M expected to be used to support its beef and pork primary processing program, this smart farm competition pushes CAAIN’S funding commitments to roughly $36M.
The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network is a not-for-profit company launched in July 2019 with funding of $49.5-million from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and assistance from Alberta Innovates in the form of significant in-kind contributions.