New upskilling program gets Indigenous learners ready for digital agriculture
- SPONSORED | November 15, 2022
A new agricultural technology program is ready to train indigenous people for jobs in digital agriculture.
The Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program from Palette Skills is an accelerated 2 week full-time + 6 weeks part-time intensive program that gets students up to speed with automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing.
Palette Skills is a national nonprofit committed to building a smart and inclusive economy through innovative upskilling programs that connect participants to growing industries. The new digital agriculture program has been designed in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, and industry leaders Protein Industries Canada and the Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI).
Along with its partners, Palette Skills believes there is a revolution going on. Agtech has been called the fourth wave of agriculture, and it’s a way of growing and making food that uses sophisticated digital and automated processes, including drones, artificial intelligence (AI), and even robots to boost productivity.
Agtech can make agriculture more sustainable by gathering and analyzing precise information about plants, the environment, water, and soil.
“We think the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program will support Indigenous learners to become active participants in digital agriculture,” says Palette Skills Executive Director AJ Tibando. “Through these technologies, communities can take a leadership role and help build sustainability, food sovereignty, and more connection to the land.”
Whether it’s about addressing issues of food security, honouring ancient food traditions, or making sure that Indigenous citizens are in the driver’s seat when it comes to economic development, Indigenous young people are an untapped talent resource on the land, not only where they live, but also where the food has to be grown.
A recent Aboriginal Peoples Survey shows that over half of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people are under the age of 25, and according to Statistics Canada, 1 in 5 residents of Saskatchewan will be Aboriginal by 2036. The potential for learning and leadership is enormous, but according to experts, tapping this talent requires new models for skills development.
“Indigenous people are really engaged, and they find themselves rooted in the rural experience,” says leading agtech consultant David Yee. Yee is an Executive in Residence at the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, and he’s excited about the opportunities for Indigenous participation and learning coming into play with the digital agriculture program from Palette Skills.
That’s because the Automation and Digital Agricultural Specialist program is a hybrid intensive learning experience designed in consultation with leading agri-tech businesses and key academic partners. Don’t think of it as just another academic training program. What makes it different—and relevant to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan—is that Palette Skills focuses on bringing learning and real-world skills development to people in the communities where they live.
For David Yee, the innovative program comes at just the right time for Indigenous communities across the province.
“Indigenous people in Saskatchewan currently own about 4 million acres of arable land, but they are only actively managing and farming about 15% of this resource,” says Yee. “A lot of it is being simply leased out, but I believe there is going to be both pressure and opportunity to take back some of this land.”
When that happens, the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program will get the next generation of Indigenous talent up to speed with automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing.
A key strength of Palette Skills’ approach lies in the organization’s partnerships with industry. The program has been designed in consultation with leading agribusiness leaders to give participants tools to identify, manage, and implement agtech solutions across the agri-food value chain.
And through the program’s intensive networking events—including live demos—that include employers and industry partners, participants get connected to industry with real-world skills.
Our program participants are ready to hit the ground in a number of diverse and important roles,” says Ednali Zehavi. “From working as a precision agriculture specialist, ag program manager, agronomy technologist, or an agricultural data analyst, we are connecting great talent to employers on the ground (like Parametrics Ag, Nutrien, and KPMG) who are ready to hire.
A recent participant of the Digital Agriculture Specialist Program told Palette Skills how she benefited from the program’s focus on networking opportunities in the industry.
“I told all my friends you should participate in this program,” says Berokh Hagdhan, “because the most important thing that I got from this program was confidence. The program showed me I can make a difference in the agricultural industry, and in my community, too.”
Palette Skills is hosting information sessions about the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program on November 23rd from 5:00 to 6:00 pm CST. To learn more about the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program from Palette Skills, navigate to their webpage at www.paletteskills.org/agtech.