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Lethbridge College first Canadian college to host upcoming national biotech conference

Posted on March 15, 2023 by Taber Times

By Erika Mathieu

Taber Times

Lethbridge College is gearing up to host the Canadian Society for Bioengineering conference on campus this July. 

The national conference is expecting more than 200 agriculture and bioengineering students, faculty, research scientists and industry representatives to attend from July 23 to 26. The Canadian Society for Bioengineering/La Société Canadienne de Génie Agroalimentaire et de Bioingénierie (CSBE/SCGAB) will also be hold their annual general meeting (AGM) at this time. It is also the first time the conference will be hosted by any Canadian college.

The CSBE/SCGAB has nearly 600 international members and operates as a technical society for scholars and professionals interested, “in the application of scientific and engineering principals for the sustainable production of food, bio-products and bioenergy.”

Dr. Chandra Singh, senior research chair, Agricultural Engineering and Technology at Lethbridge College, is also the CSBE/SCGAB Alberta regional director and chair of the 2023 AGM organizing committee.

Dr. Singh noted, “(It) is a very good opportunity for us to be part of the conference and hosting will allow us to showcase our region, our city, our programs. It’s a really exciting opportunity to have for us,” and noted this is the first time the conference will be held in Lethbridge. 

The three day conference will be held from July 23-26, and Dr. Singh said he is expecting around 200 people to be in attendance based on last year’s conference, which was held on Prince Edward Island.

July’s conference will not only be a first for Lethbridge, but the first time any Canadian college has hosted.

Dr. Singh noted much of the research being done by Lethbridge College in the fields of advanced post-harvest technology, irrigation, greenhouse, aquaculture, and aquaponics is centred on researching sustainable food production and mitigating crop losses post-harvest. 

This year’s conference theme will focus on sustainable agriculture. Dr. Singh said the conference will explore, “anything in technology and the datasphere that helps minimize,” the impact on lands, as well as, “anything on the processing side that minimizes the waste production. Anything (which is) helping to reduce or minimize the input of energy, water, and food waste is what the theme is about.” 

Dr. Singh also recently spoke at the North American Ag and Seed Expo, which took place at the Lethbridge exhibition grounds from Feb. 28-March 2, and saw nearly 20,000 registered attendees take part in the event. 

Dr. Singh’s main area of research is in the field of post-harvest technologies. Ongoing research projects in the College’s Advanced Post-Harvest Technology program is currently exploring, “engineering solutions using advancements in sensing, automation, IoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision, hyper-spectral imaging and mathematical modelling.” 

The conference will provide a framework for scholars, professionals, and students to discuss up and coming techniques and innovations relating to sustainable agriculture practices, crop storage, transport, and monitoring which “can help minimize post-harvest losses,” said Singh.

“I have actually been able to start a new program, (in post harvest technology) when I joined the college, and we now have the Advanced Post-Harvest Technology Centre” he explained.

As the name indicates, post-harvest refers to, “any operation or process (which happens) after harvest.” 

Post-harvest technologies help monitor crops and improve the shelf-life of these crops. Better post-harvest technologies translates to improved efficiencies in the supply chain. 

“Any grain in the world that you can store for longer will create (a supply chain) buffer,” explained Dr. Singh. Environmental factors such as heat and moisture can disrupt and impact a product’s shelf life significantly. Innovation in post-harvest technology aims to mitigate these losses.  AI and automated technologies, storage solutions, and finding improvements in monitoring and sensor technology are a few examples.

Ongoing research projects currently underway at Lethbridge College’s Advanced Post-Harvest Innovation program include the development of wireless monitoring and automated aeration control system for optimal sugar beet storage in outdoor piles, development of AI-based grain management systems, and regional potato variety trials across Alberta.

To learn more about the Advanced Post-Harvest Technology program team’s research, visit, https://lethbridgecollege.ca/departments/centre-for-applied-research-and-innovation/aphtc. 

The CSBE/SCGAB is accepting abstracts for the July conference until the March 15 deadline. 

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