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This year, The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture undertook an application for Phase 1 of the Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada, “Agricultural Climate Solutions” funding.

Agricultural Climate Solutions – Living Labs, is a $185 million, 10-year program that intends to establish a strong, Canada-wide network of living labs. Through these living labs, regional leaders will bring together farmers, scientists, and other sector partners to co-develop, test and monitor beneficial management practices on working farms to reduce Canada’s environmental footprint and enhance climate resiliency. The two identified priority areas for Newfoundland and Labrador were as follows:
1.    Carbon sequestration (e.g. cover crops, intercropping, conversion of marginal land to permanent cover, shelterbelts, inclusion of pulses in rotations, etc.)
2.    Greenhouse gas mitigation (e.g. nutrient management, feeding strategies, etc.)

On September 20, 2021, Phase 1 began. The NLFA engaged researchers at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University to assist in the development of an application under the ACS program to establish living labs in Newfoundland and Labrador. A working group including representatives of NLFA and Grenfell Campus was established.

The NLFA sought to further connect with farmers across NL to co-develop specific, mutually beneficial research projects that could be funded through the ACS program. A series of virtual and in-person consultations were held in partnership with Spicer Facilitation & Learning, NLFA, and Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. The sessions were producer-led with an emphasis on potential living labs on-farm. 

Overwhelmingly, in all regions, most producers expressed interest in establishing a living lab. Levels of support and enthusiasm were high amongst producers. Some challenges identified include size and scale of farms, compensation, and uniqueness of microclimates in the province.

Two rounds of consultation sessions were held in each of the four identified regions of Newfoundland and Labrador. The facilitation plan was developed by Carole Spicer and agreed upon in collaboration with the working group. Additionally, an online survey was developed by the research community in partnership with the NLFA. 

Round one of engagement with producers was a series of virtual engagement sessions. Sessions were held via Zoom and hosted by the NLFA. Kalysha Snow (NLFA) provided a review of previous consultation sessions held with producers including AgriRisk in 2017, and Climate Change in 2020-21. Yeukai Katanda (Grenfell) provided a presentation on the ACS program, including a definition of climate change, the parameters of the program and the living lab approach. Carole Spicer facilitated a discussion with producers about what practices they are currently using to mitigate the effects of climate change, specifically carbon sequestration, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (the key objectives of ACS program). 

Producers were asked what they would like to know more about with respect to climate change mitigation strategies. 

Local considerations were identified, and producers were asked if they were interested in having a living lab on their farm.

The virtual sessions were recorded on Zoom and shared with the researcher community (60+ natural and social scientists).

Round two of engagement was held in-person. Yeukai Katanda (Grenfell) provided a presentation on what was heard in the virtual sessions, presented specifically for each region. Carole Spicer facilitated a discussion of what producers are already doing to improve carbon sequestration and/or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Click to read the What we Heard Report

Producers were then divided into two breakout groups. The groups were facilitated by Yeukai Katanda and Mumtaz Cheema (lead researchers with Grenfell). Researchers unable to attend in-person were invited to participate virtually. The groups were asked the following questions:
•    Given what you have heard so far, what are your priorities?
•    What problem would you like to solve OR what observation have you made that is of concern?
•    What would you like to know more about/measure?

The researchers, in collaboration with producers endeavored to develop potential research questions that might form the foundation for a living lab project.

Each group then presented their discussion to the room at large. Producers were asked what challenges they foresee in establishing living labs in their area. They were asked if they are interested in having a living lab on their farm. Audio recorders were placed around the room during the in-person sessions. The recordings will be made available to the research community for those unable to attend.

Overwhelmingly, in all regions, most producers expressed interest in establishing a living lab. Levels of support and enthusiasm are high amongst producers. Some challenges identified include size and scale of farms, compensation, and uniqueness of microclimates in the province.
Lead researchers were satisfied with the input received from producers. It is evident that involving social scientists in the research community will be very beneficial to the living lab approach, as not all concerns raised are specifically technical. Several areas of interest include policy, economics, and social benefits of agriculture.

With the information gathered from these consultations, the NL research community have worked together to develop three potential living-lab projects to submit for the Phase 2 proposal to AAFC. The working group is now conjoining efforts to touch base with interested producers from the two sessions to inquire which research project will prove to have the most longevity in and be the most beneficial for our province. 

NLFA will submit the proposal for the agreed upon living lab, in partnership with Grenfell University, The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, The Pye Centre, and other agriculture stakeholders in the province, on January 15, 2022. 

NLFA envisions a NL living lab that will not only help to reduce NL agricultures environmental footprint, and enhance our provinces climate resiliency – but also, will help to build strong relationships with all NL agriculture producers and stakeholders.

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