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Federal government funds UFV Agriculture Centre of Excellence

A funding boost from the federal government has launched UFV into the leading edge of universities for agriculture programs.

Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced Thursday, $2.1 million in state-of-the-art training equipment for the University of the Fraser Valley's Agriculture Centre of Excellence.

The investment will equip the university for advanced technology in areas of automation and robotics. It will enable students to acquire skills in design, installation and maintenance of advanced automated systems.

Not only will it train the next generation of agricultural technicians, engineers, researchers and scientists, said Rempel, it will also help drive the western Canadian economy.

"This investment will provide industry with the skilled workforce it needs to adopt new technologies, services and processes, and ultimately grow the agriculture sector," said Rempel.

In 2012, B.C.'s agrifood sector generated $11.7 billion in revenue and exported $2.5 billion worth of products to more than 130 countries. The province is targeting $14 billion in revenue by 2017 according to the B.C. Agrifoods strategy for growth.

The federal funding announcement will help push that mandate.

With the new equipment, UFV is adding new engineering in mechatronics and automation technician programs.

"We've recognized it's going to take some advanced methods, advanced equipment, automation, robotics, all those things, to help keep the industry competitive and vibrant," said John English, Dean of UFV Trades and Technology.

"We've taken the view all along that everything we do at the Centre of Excellence must support the ag industry directly; that it has to be driven by their initiatives, their ambitions, their problems and desires."

The new equipment "allows industry locally to tap into the training and education, as well as the research that would go with it to make them more competitive and productive," said English.

The funding announcement was the second in a week for UFV's trades and technology department. Last week, the provincial government announced $872,000 to reduce wait lists into UFV's trades and technology programs.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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