Perspectives Newsletter Fall 2015
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 09:58

Message from President Sylvio Tessier

sylvioOK, I got it, BioE programs are not quite like old Agricultural Engineering…

In January of this year, Beijing’s mayor announced that his city was no longer “livable” on account of the air pollution levels that take a daily toll on its 21.5 million inhabitants.  Today (November 30, 2015), never mind odours or visibility, airborne particulates reached 976 µgm-3, whereas the safe level is… 25 µgm-3­

My better half and I just returned from a business trip in China’s Inner Mongolia, where I presented some tips for the design of no-till corn planters, at No-Till & Conservation Tillage Workshop hosted by a local manufacturer, and chaired by Professor Li Hongwen, director of the National Soil Conservation Centre, housed in the College of Engineering of the China Agricultural University in Beijing.   We also spent a couple days in Beijing, and we didn’t see the sun shine for very long…

Published in Editorial

You are invited to submit an abstract to the Conference for

Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable World

which will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 3-6, 2016. The conference will provide the opportunity to share professional research, experience and insights with colleagues from Canada and beyond. The conference is presented by the CSBE/SCGAB and will be held in conjunction with the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the CSBE/SCGAB.

Paper and poster presentations in the following general subject areas are welcome. Any topic related to bioresource and biosystems engineering solutions will be considered for presentation.

  • Water Management
  • Energy Generation and Conservation 
  • Biosolids and Nutrient Management
  • Bio-processing & Food Engineering
  • Information Technologies and Bio-instrumentation
  • Structures & Indoor Environments
  • Forest Resource Management
  • Power & Machinery
  • Precision Agriculture
  • Standards and Safety
  • Soil Interactions and Management
  • Aquaculture and Aquaponic Systems
  • Ambient Air Quality Management 

Presentations about successful or innovative teaching, policy and extension programs and initiatives are also welcome. If you have a new area you would like considered please contact our Program Chair to discuss.

Format:  Poster or oral (15 min) presentation.

Abstract Submission: Abstracts must be 250 words or less, and are due on or before March 11 March 24, 2016. Submissions must be made using the Abstract submission system on the conference website.

Student Competition: Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to enter the Student Competition. If you wish to participate in the Poster or Oral competitions, please indicate this at the beginning of abstract submission process. Note that it will be possible to change the track (edit submission) online before the abstract submission deadline. The competition will be for 1) Best Student Oral Presentation and 2) Best Student Poster Presentation, as judged by a panel. Evaluation will be based on established criteria that include both content and presentation. Awards will be given to the top two winners in each category, including a certificate and a cash award. Note that students need to be CSBE/SCGAB member to compete.

Articles (full paper): All presenters at the conference are encouraged to prepare a written article to accompany their poster or oral presentation. Full articles must be formatted using the article template available on our website (http://www.csbe-scgab.ca/halifax2016-papers/author-guidelines) and submitted through the paper submission system.

For more information about the conference, visit our website: http://www.csbe-scgab.ca/halifax2016

Published in Notice of Meeting

As you can see from the following list of awards, our Society offers awards that cover a variety of interest areas. This year our Regional Directors will be nudging some of you to nominate a fellow member for an award. Let’s make sure that these awards are presented next summer in Halifax. Please refer to our Website for more details. Deadline to submit nominations to the Society Manager is Jan 30, 2016. The Society Manager will forward the nominations to the Awards Selection Committee.


Maple Leaf Award
Given to honor CSBE/SCGAB members who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the profession. It is the highest award made by the Society. Given for outstanding personal qualities, society activities, and professional abilities.

Young Engineer of the Year Award
Given to encourage younger members of the Society who are under 40 years of age. This award recognizes outstanding contributions through design and development, extension and management or research and teaching

John Turnbull Award
This award is given annually to the CSBE/SCGAB member who, in the opinion of the Awards Committee, has produced outstanding work in the animal housing field in industry, teaching, research or extension.

Industrial Award
The basis for selection of the award may include, but not be limited to, the ingenuity, significance and entrepreneurship involved and the contribution to society and to the profession.  The Awards Committee, from nominations by three CSBE/SCGAB members, shall select the recipient of the award.

John Clark Award
This award, given in memory of John Clark, is given to the CSBE/SCGAB member who, in the opinion of the Awards Committee, has produced outstanding work in industry, teaching, research or extension in one or more of the fields of Energy, Electric Power, Processing, or Food Engineering".

Glenn Downing Award
This award is presented to the CSBE/SCGAB member who has produced outstanding work in industry, teaching, research or extension in the area of Power and Machinery.

Jim Beamish Award
The Jim Beamish Award was established in 1989 to honour the memory of the first President of CSBE/SCGAB and a long time worker in Soil and Water Engineering and Water Management.  This award is given to the CSBE/SCGAB member who, in the opinion of the Awards Committee, has produced outstanding work in industry, teaching, research and extension in the area of soil and water.  The Alumni Committee of Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) sponsors the award.

IT’S TIME TO NOMINATE YOUR COLLEAGUE TO BE DESIGNATED AS A 2016 CSBE FELLOW. This year our Regional Directors will be nudging some of you to nominate a fellow member to receive the designation of FELLOW. Let’s make sure that a number of our members are recognized for their longstanding service in Halifax. Please refer to our Website for more details. Deadline to submit nominations to the Society Manager is Jan 30, 2016. The Society Manager will forward the nomination to the Fellows Selection Committee.

The designation "Fellow" shall have honorary status, to which members of distinction may be elected, but for which they may not apply. A Fellow shall be a member of outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience in the field of agricultural, food, and/or biological engineering, and shall have met all the requirements for the grade of member. A Fellow shall have been a member of the Society for ten years, and have twenty years of active practice in the profession. 

The nomination must be supported by ten members in good standing. 

Published in Notices to Members
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 09:54

Farm Stewardship Centre in Lethbridge

What was formally the AgTEch Centre in Lethbridge Alberta has been given a new name and renewed focus.

The Farm Stewardship Centre in Lethbridge provides a renewed focus on applied research, evaluation and implementation of new methods and technology aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of farming and food production.

“Established in the 1980s, the Lethbridge research facility continues to evolve to meet the needs of the agriculture sector. Under its new mandate, the centre is undertaking projects that range from the assessment of greenhouse gas emissions linked to fertilizer to developing systems that improve water and energy use on farms.” Says Virginia Nelson, Director of Engineering and Climate Services. 

Strengthening environmental stewardship practices is crucial to the responsible growth of a strong and sustainable agriculture sector that will help further diversify the Alberta economy. The staff at the centre work closely with producers, commodity groups and the research community to explore innovative approaches to grow food and care for the environment.

The long-term success of the agriculture industry relies on Alberta continuing to show leadership in sustainable and environmentally responsible development. The Farm Stewardship Centre is a resource for agriculture producers to help them make informed decisions about how to best manage their operations.

The work at the centre will complement other government initiatives including Growing Forward 2, which are designed to support the development of a sustainable and competitive agriculture industry.

Through the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 program, producers and agri-businesses have access to funding to support advances in animal health, food safety, market access, value-added industry development and environmental stewardship. 


Published in Alberta Regional News

On September 24, the annual UMCSBE & Biosystems BBQ was held at the University of Manitoba. The BBQ is a great opportunity for networking for students and professionals alike.

This year, the event was well attended, with about 50 students, 10 industry representatives, and several professors, and a good time was had by all.



Published in Manitoba Regional News
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 09:46

Meet Ontario engineers Mark, Micheal, and Doug

Mark Armstrong, P.Eng. (20 year member) received his Agricultural Engineering degree at the University of Guelph. He founded Armco Solutions Inc. that specializes mainly in two areas; energy savings ideas for new and more efficient technologies in agricultural, commercial and industrial applications; and solutions for indoor air quality in the same sectors. Mark’s advice for younger members is to ‘Find a niche that the industry needs, but not everyone else is doing. Work on expressing your ideas and remember that presentation is very important.

Michael Toombs, MSc., P.Eng. (27 year member) received his Engineering degree at Concordia University and his Masters at the University of Guelph. He works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Guelph. He has held several positions with OMAFRA, but now is Director of Research and Innovation focusing on research priorities for the agricultural, food and rural affairs sectors and on research infrastructure renewal. Two examples; the new $25 m Elora dairy research facility, a joint project between the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, and the Ontario dairy; and the new $10 m research greenhouse at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Mike’s advice for younger members; ‘Be resourceful, proactive and bring more than the technical to the table’.

Doug Trivers, P.Eng. (29 year member) received his Engineering degree at the University of Guelph. He is the owner/operator of Dayson Agricultural Ventilation Ltd. (daysonav.com). Doug was raised on a small Ontario mixed farm and developed an aptitude for “things mechanical” and agricultural. He decided on Engineering since he was good at math and science. After graduation he worked as an OMAFRA Livestock Energy Specialist; great training to learn the importance of customer service and gain skills in control strategies and energy management. He took a leave after 10 years to test the private sector, and as the ”Remington” story goes “I liked it so much, I bought the Company (20 years ago)”. He provides turn-key ventilation systems to growers for on-farm storage of mainly potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas and squash. He specializes in ‘free-cooling’, taking advantage of the cool air available in Canadian evenings and winters. His advice for new members is simple…’READ; a wealth of knowledge is available in trade publications and on association websites to assist learners or entrepreneurs’.

Published in Ontario Regional News

Up until recently, dairy farmers have been hindered in quickly detecting possible reasons for a reduction in milk production among their herd. One such reason is sub-clinical ketosis (SCK) when an affected cow appears to be well but only becomes observably under stress when SCK becomes full ketosis affecting major organs, or it could be other metabolic diseases. The only true method of detecting these abnormalities was by taking vials of the affected cow’s blood and sending samples to a lab for diagnosis. However, Bionanolab of the School of Engineering has advanced this procedure by putting the ability to diagnose a cow’s health in the hands of farmers themselves, thereby saving crucial time in detecting certain bovine metabolic irregularities, and thereby providing earlier treatment.

By detecting certain enzymes in blood, the newly developed device can pick out these biomarkers present in miniscule amounts and help identify diseases. A combination of the device’s unique composition of electrodes, a plant enzyme, and the correct amount of electric current were discovered by the Bionano research team to be the winning formula used collectively in the device known as a “Gryphsens”.

A New Tool on the Farm

Through the implementation of a hand held sensor, a dairy farmer can rapidly detect whether a cow has sub-clinical ketosis or other metabolic diseases through a small amount of blood being taken and having the sample analyzed in real-time through interfacing with the Internet by a smart phone. Such technology not only allows a dairy farmer to rapidly determine a cause for a reduction in milk production, but it also allows early detection of metabolic diseases that can then be treated, facilitating a cow to return to its normal milk volume levels in a shorter period of time. The cost saving of such early detection is substantial for small and larger dairy herds.

In the case of larger dairy herds, this Canadian invention that uses a unique electrochemical measurement of samples can be engineered for use with in-line robotic milking machines to monitor a herd individually, yet collectively, to avoid the repetitive and time-consuming method of testing each cow separately. The sensor, developed at Guelph’s Bionano laboratory of the School of Engineering by a team headed by Dr. Suresh Neethirajan is able to detect minute electrochemical activity in biological fluids that indicate biomarkers for certain irregularities and diseases. These markers flag slightly elevated levels of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), and a ketone prevalent in cows, β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA), that at higher levels can both signal the early onset of ketosis and other metabolic diseases.

A Critical Time Line

Historically, the calving period is a stressful time for cows, described as a time of negative energy balance (NEB), when the onset of ketosis or other metabolic diseases are most prominent. Although the levels of NEFA and BHBA are miniscule at the beginning, early detection can reduce complications and a faster recuperation period, otherwise a later detection could lead to fatty liver, ketosis, displaced abomasum (twisted stomach), and inflammation of the uterus or a retained placenta. Dairy farmers are highly cognizant that charting a cow’s NEFA and BHBA levels is the litmus test for the animal’s overall health. One of the great advantages of testing for on-farm dairy cow diseases using our developed biosensor is that it not only significantly reduces the stress on the animals due to relying on a drop of blood instead of vials sent, but also provides instant test results.

The Lab Comes to the Barn

Traditionally, these levels are determined through expensive and lengthy tests performed in laboratories. Through electrochemistry and nanotechnology the University of Guelph’s Bionano team has made it possible for dairy farmers from all scales of operation to ascertain for themselves their herd’s health. Although humans have similar devices for measuring glucose levels for diabetes, the cow’s organism presents a further challenge by having 11 major blood groups versus four. The challenge was developing the sensor’s electrode that could simultaneously detect both NEFA and BHBA in variable metabolic conditions that can include a number of interfering components, which could alter the test results. Ability to detect multiple disease biomarkers from just a droplet of blood sample that could be used by untrained farmers is unique.

A Plant with the Answer

An issue the University of Guelph team had to surmount was the insulating property of GO that hindered the electrochemical function crucial for the biosensor. A particular enzyme from the soybean plant was integral in solving this problem and was incorporated into the dual electrodes. Although lipoxygenase is found in animal and plant species, using soybean lipoxygenase-1 (SLO) was itself a first for catalyzing direct electrochemical oxidation of NEFA in conjunction with graphene oxide nanomaterial. The result is a biosensor that has a dual function of detecting NEFA and BHBA in less than a minute on-site by the dairy farmer using a small sample of whole blood. Dairy cattle are an investment that must be kept in prime condition to maintain optimal production levels, and the Canadian biosensor is the latest tool for dairy farmers and large scale operations to monitor the health of their herds. The dual sensor can be an important part of routine screening used by farmers in the dairy barn. 


Published in Ontario Regional News

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