UFV campus planner Craig Toews (left) chats with advanced education minister Amrik Virk during a tour of the new Agriculture Centre of Excellence on Thursday. Behind them is the new three-storey greenhouse.

Growing our future

The new B.C. Centre for Agriculture Excellence under construction in Chilliwack will help the Fraser Valley feed a hungry world

Food security is a popular topic with urban farmers these days.

But it will take more than a vegetable garden in the front yard and a couple of chickens in the back to feed a hungry world.

It will take education and research. And that’s why the B.C. Centre for Agriculture Excellence now under construction in Chilliwack is so important (Chilliwack Progress, Dec. 13).

The centre is taking shape at UFV’s campus at the Canada Education Park. The most distinctive feature is the new three-storey high greenhouse, billed as North American’s tallest.

The height gives the interior an almost cathedral-like feel. But there’s more.

The height, thanks to the light-weight sheathing that allows the structure to be built without additional supports, also provides more precise control of air pressure, temperature and composition.

The polycarbonate material provides more diffused light without sacrificing the overall intensity. That means the sunlight, so critical to photosynthesis and vigorous plant growth, is not too harsh for the plants growing inside, or the people tending them.

If that sounds technical, it is. Greenhouse agriculture has come along way since keeping frost off the tomatoes.

But so has agriculture in general. For thousands of years there was a gradual improvement in the way we farmed. Those changes, which are now coming at an exponential pace, have allowed us to get more food off the land and feed an ever expanding population.

Agriculture remains an economic backbone for Canada, particularly the Fraser Valley – one of the most intensely farmed regions of the country.

Ensuring we have young people skilled in the latest technical advances is essential to helping Canada maintain that edge. The practical understanding their grandparents knew must now be coupled with a suite of interdisciplinary skills, from computer science, to marketing and business management.

But what’s more, innovations in the way we grow will expand our agricultural output even more. It’s not just about what we grow, but how we grow it.

Chilliwack will be at the fore of this exciting science. The agriculture centre setting down roots at UFV will produce fruit that the Fraser Valley, the country and the world will benefit from for years to come.