Errol Caldwell, research director at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, said the area has tens of thousands of acres worth of untapped potential which the project hopes to help farmers take advantage of.
While Algoma farmers have traditionally been hay producers, they are starting to show interest in cash crops, such as silage corn, seed corn, canola, and cereals, said Caldwell.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity to get more cash value out of those other crops,” said Caldwell.
While Caldwell said farmers are starting to pursue these opportunities already on their own, the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) is expected to help increase opportunities, expand research capabilities, and help agricultural businesses grow.
Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti and MP Bryan Hayes announced their governments’ contributions to the project on Friday.
The province will put $343,750 into RAIN, including $81,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
FedNor, meanwhile, will fund RAIN to the tune of $262,750.
Caldwell said SSMIC and Algoma University’s NORDIK Institute created an advisory group for the three-year pilot about a year ago. With research funding added in, RAIN has a total of about $1 million in funding. A manager for the research part of the project is expected to be hired by January, with a research technician and a marketing development specialist to be brought on soon after.
Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a Bruce Mines beef farmer, said agriculture worldwide is on an upswing and Algoma is well placed to take advantage of it.