It is time to reflect on the past, take stock of the present and gaze into the crystal ball for the future …
As of September 2, 2016, it has been exactly 47 years and eight months to the day since I have come to Canada. My journey during this period has taught me to realize the importance of learning and to be connected to nature in a multi-disciplinary framework. Thanks to all my gurus (teachers), colleagues, and shishyas (students) who have taught me humility and wisdom in life. I am in a milieu of smart people called bioengineers who can make a big difference not only in addressing current challenges but also for the future where the global population is heading towards over ten billion people in the next two to three decades. Canada being an exporter of various agricultural commodities has a lot to offer not only in agriculture but in many other areas as well. Sustainable development goals are key in all walks of life including our food/ energy/ environment system nexus. The CSBE and its members are very well-positioned to play a role in meeting these challenges.
The agricultural sector in Canada has gone through dire straits over the last few decades due to changes in the role of agriculture in Canadian society, and in the perception of the role of engineers in this field. Similarly, the CSBE has been adapting to these changes seeking renewal in order to be a sustainable entity. As the saying goes “Charity begins at home”, i.e. we have to sustain ourselves first. Let me share our experience at McGill wherein the degree offered by our undergraduate program was transformed in 2004 from a B.Sc. (Agr. Eng.) to a B.Eng. (Bioresource). The name of the department has undergone several changes: from “Agricultural Engineering” to “Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering” in 1995, and on to “Bioresource Engineering” in 2002, as it is known today. This along with changes in our curriculum to expand beyond the classical core agricultural engineering have helped us to attract many more undergraduates to our program. The number currently stands at around 220. Changes were also done at Université Laval which has programs in génie agroalimentaire, génie agroenvironmental and génie alimentaire that are attracting a good number of undergrads. A similar initiative was taken at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Biosystems Engineering where undergraduate student enrolment is high. At the University of Guelph, the School of Engineering has several programs including a Biological Engineering program which attract high numbers of undergraduate students. Given this scenario, how do we initiate a change in other campuses across Canada?? I wish to re-kindle this thought in the minds of our colleagues to consider this challenge to demonstrate the relevance of bioengineering programs in educating and training future generations of engineers in sustainable agriculture, food production and bioprocessing, and the environment.
The CSBE/SCGAB 2016 Annual General Meeting and Technical Conference was a very successful event! It was held from July 3 to 6, 2016 in the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, NS. The conference theme was “Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable World”.
We began with a workshop on “Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Commercialization” on the Sunday. It was presented by Kevin Dunn, the Director of the Industry Liaison and Innovation office at Dalhousie University, and also by Paul Richards from Innovacorp, Nova Scotia's early stage venture capital organization. This was followed by a Welcome Reception. Technical sessions on were held on Monday and Wednesday, and a technical tour to Truro to see the Agricultural campus of Dalhousie University on Tuesday.
In keeping with the theme of the conference, we were honored to have Dr Adam Fenech from University of Prince Edward Island give a keynote address on climate change modelling. We also had a panel session on the “Impact of climate change on sustainable food production and minimizing on-farm climate related risks” with speakers from different backgrounds contributing to a lively discussion: were Drs. Charles Bourque (University New Brunswick - forestry), Kate Sherren (Dalhousie – social and spatial science), and Dave Burton (Dalhousie – soil scientist), and Mr Peter Swinkels (Doug-Bragg Enterprises – agricultural machinery industry).
The meeting was an excellent opportunity for delegates to socialize informally, as well as a chance to formally recognize the achievements of our members. Delegates mingled at the BBQ beside beautiful Lake Banook, Dartmouth on Monday evening, an Awards Banquet was held to honor awards recipients on Tuesday evening, and in addition many students were recognised for their achievements at the Awards Luncheon on the Wednesday. In addition, there was a new initiative this year, an “undergraduate roadtrip”, from Winnipeg to Halifax, which involved undergraduate participation in some conference activities and added an extra dimension of “liveliness” to the meeting. We hope to that we will continue to have support from our student members in future meetings!
On behalf of the Local Arrangements Committee, a big thank-you to all who made the 2016 CSBE AGM and Technical Conference a great success!!
Su-Ling Brooks, PhD PEng
Co-chair Local Arrangements Committee
More pictures can be found on the website:
Congratulations to all the 2016 Awards recipients for their outstanding contributions through work and achievements!
Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, Adjunct Professor at UBC and Professor Emeritus from the University of Saskatchewan, received the Founder’s Award in Bioenergy Excellence. This prestigious award recognizes his outstanding contributions to the field of bioenergy.
Dr. Sokhansanj received the award at the recent 7th International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition (http://www.bioenergyconference.org/).
Please join us in warmly congratulating Shahab!
The Climate Leadership Plan released by the Government of Alberta in November 2015 aims to accelerate the transition from coal to renewable electricity sources, put a price on carbon pollution and set emissions limits for oil sands.
In January 2016, Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) held a meeting at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Delegates from BBRG, Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), FPInnovations,BioFuelNet, BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Sector came together to discuss the ways to introduce biomass as a sustainable and renewable fuel source to decarbonize the power generation in Alberta. Subsequently, a one-day Biomass Cofiring Workshop took place in Edmonton. The overall objective of the workshop was set to address one single question “Why cofiring biomass with coal is a viable option to reduce the carbon intensity of coal-fired power plants in Alberta?” To this end, WPAC teamed up with BBRG and Canadian Biomass Magazine to organize the workshop. Over 125 delegates from power generators, biomass producers, sawmills, public and private forest managers, engineering companies, universities, and government came together on May 4th, 2016, to engage in a discussion on biomass cofiring in Alberta. This workshop was sponsored by BioFuelNet, Canadian Clean Power Coalition, Premium Pellet Ltd., Alberta Innovates-BioSolutions and NSERC.
Experts from various organizations covered different aspects of biomass cofiring opportunity in Alberta. UBC’s BBRG members, Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, Dr. Mahmood Ebadian, Dr. Fahimeh Yazdanpanah and Ryan Jacobson, Ph.D. student presented the results of their research on “logistics of supplying wood pellets to coal-fired power plants in Alberta”. Their research sheds some light on woody biomass availability in Alberta and British Columbia, logistics scenarios to supply woody biomass from forest stands to the gate of the coal power plants, the logistics costs and modification costs of the power plants, and the number of potential employment created across the supply chain.
The message at the end of the workshop was clear: cofiring forest biomass with coal is a technically and commercially viable option to combat the climate change in Alberta. However, more collective and prompt efforts are required among different stakeholders to put biomass cofiring on the government’s agenda as a viable option to phase out coal in Alberta.