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Alberta farmers gather at Crossroads conference

FarmTech successor talks biofuels, sustainability
NEW CONFERENCE — About 600 Alberta-area farmers will be at the Edmonton Convention Centre Jan. 25-26 for the inaugural Crossroads Crop Conference, the successor to FarmTech. ALBERTA WHEAT COMMISSION/Photo

Alberta farmers will be in Edmonton next week to talk biofuels and sustainability as part of a new crop conference.

About 600 farmers from across Alberta were expected to be at the Edmonton Convention Centre this Jan. 24-25 for the inaugural Crossroads Crop Conference.

Organized by Alberta’s barley, canola, pulse, and wheat commissions, Crossroads is the successor to the long-running FarmTech conference, which typically drew 1,800 people to the Edmonton Expo Centre each January to talk about new trends in agricultural science. FarmTech was cancelled in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers decided to rework FarmTech into Crossroads during that pandemic break, said conference chair Todd Hames. Instead of having a big trade show and lots of sessions on agronomy, which other shows already covered, Crossroads was to be more about policy, networking, farm management, and sustainability.

“You learn so much from each other as farmers,” Hames said, and this conference was a place where you could meet with farmers from across Western Canada.

Hames said this year’s conference would feature a variety of networking events and educational sessions on everything from wetland stewardship to next year’s weather. Many sessions would address environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions.

“Western Canadian farmers have been doing sustainability for years,” Hames said, in the form of no-till agriculture and efficient use of fertilizer, and the federal government was taking new interest in the environmental impacts of farming.

“We have to understand what (the federal government is) asking and we have to respond with what we’re doing and tell our story, and let this government know we are sustainable and we are doing all these things to be efficient.”

Biofuel outlook

Tim Auger of Advanced Biofuels Canada will run a session at the conference on Canada’s biofuel markets.

Auger said the biofuel market has changed a lot in the last decade, particularly with the passage of the new federal clean fuel standards.

“As of Jan. 1 with Quebec’s new regulations, 95 per cent of liquid transportation fuels in Canada are covered under provincial regulations,” he said, all of which require some percentage of those fuels to come from low-to-no carbon sources.

Auger said Alberta farmers should expect consistent prices for canola and soybeans in the coming decade as demand for biofuels made from them grows, as well as new investment in crushing and biofuel production facilities. Oil producers were now investing in on-site biofuel production and blending plants as they geared up to pump out billions of litres of sustainable fuels.

Auger said most of these low-carbon fuels would power hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as air travel and long-haul trucking, as cars were expected to switch to electricity. Farmers may also start to see competition from fuels derived directly from CO2 harvested from flue stacks.

Auger said farmers should look to increase carbon storage in their soils and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their farms, as low-carbon crops should fetch a premium under the federal government’s clean fuel standards.

“The low-carbon intensity fuel sector is moving and it needs inputs,” Auger said.

“It’s an opportunity that should not be overlooked.”

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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