Perspectives Newsletter Spring 2021
Vol. 44, no.1 / Posted on June 15, 2021

It is Tuesday May 11th, 10:00 am Quebec time and the Welcome ceremony is starting. Stéphane Godbout, the conference’s co-chair, welcomes all participants. Karina, from Eklosion, do an excellent hosting performance.

I was very excited at the time because we have been working on the organization of this international conference for over 5 years. Initially scheduled for the summer of 2020, we were forced to cancel it due to the COVID-19 situation. Several scenarios were on the table: postpone the event entirely to 2021, hold the event virtually, or simply cancel the whole thing. With the support and endorsement of CSBE and CIGR, our committee moved forward to hold the event virtually. Fortunately, all our guest speakers remained committed to attending virtually. The program was enhanced by virtual technical tours, special sessions, and post-conference workshops. 

The quality of the presentations by our guest speakers was impressing, starting with Senator Rosa Galvez. Senator Galvez provided an excellent overview of Canada's position on GHG reduction and adaptation measures related to climate change. Kathy Baig, President of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, underlined the importance of the Ordre and its values in our profession. The place of women in engineering was discussed and the OIQ's objective of having 30% of women engineers by 2030 is more than welcome. Finally, Andy Zynga, CEO of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology Food, presented how Europe wants to transform the food industry towards a more open innovation structure. The table was set for an excellent conference under the theme of interactions between society and our profession, agricultural and biosystems engineering. 

At the World Congress on Computers in Agriculture and Natural Resources symposium, I was able to see the importance of decision support tools in our context where more and more variables, stakeholders, and objectives come into play. In the special session on biogas, Jennifer Green presented impressive, but accessible, biogas projects on farms and industries. With Canada's new GHG reduction targets, we have every interest in these technologies. Also related to GHG reduction, the 4th International Symposium on Gas Emissions and Dust from Livestock (EMILI) introduced innovative approaches to reducing GHG on farms such as a fume hood with biofilter to capture emissions directly from the building. The benefits and potential of biochar were also ably highlighted in the presentations introduced by expert Suzanne Allaire. According to her, biochar seems a very interesting avenue for on-farm carbon storage, in line with the Canadian objectives of the new Agricultural Climate Solutions program.  

On the second day, the virtual technical tour on farm buildings allowed us to learn more about the Chair in Educational Leadership on Sustainable Agricultural Buildings at Université Laval, the family business Industrie Harnois and the advanced R&D facilities of the Centre de développement du porc du Québec. Later in the day, the Symposium on Livestock Building Innovations kicked off with excellent technical presentations in the domain. In the middle of the day, all were invited to attend the CSBE and CIGR Awards Ceremony, accompanied by a musical performance by Quebec City band The Lost Fingers.  

On the third day of the conference, I was able to attend - and do my presentation - the special session on challenges in hydrological modeling. This is a very interesting area where the development of knowledge and computational power allows now to evaluate at several scales the impacts of beneficial agricultural practices on water quantity and quality. Later, the session on climate change showed the impact of the crisis but also presented ways to adapt or mitigate the changes. At the end of the day, we were able to listen to two experts in the field of biomethanization (Benoit Bourque) and on the impact of climate change on animal production systems (Thomas Banhazi), followed by the presentation of the Armand Blanc and Best Paper awards. 

The last day started with the CIGR general assembly and excellent technical presentations, including one on the inventory of biomass sources in Canada to better grasp the opportunities of carbon-neutral energy transition. On the same theme, Lorie Hamelin (Toulouse Biotechnology Institute) presented high-level information putting into perspective, and on a larger scale, the strategies for the supply of non-fossil carbon sources. Frederic Pelletier (MELCC) followed with an overview of the carbon market system currently in place in Quebec.  

Four days, 35 sessions, 275 technical presentations, the 2021 edition of the CIGR international conference was a real success, even if it was 100% virtual! We saw during this meeting innumerable results, ideas, and exchange showing the will to address the numerous challenges around the development for a sustainable agriculture. In the face of immense challenges, the solution to sustainable agriculture will require a multi-expert collaboration that integrates social concern and the latest knowledge in agriculture. Engineers must therefore play a key role for a better future. 

On behalf of the organizing committee, I would like to thank all of the presenters for the quality of their presentation and specially the keynotes to bring us new and sustainable ways for agriculture more nested with the society. I would also like to thank all the individuals, teams and partners who helped support the organization of the event.  

For those interested, the recordings will be available until August 18th for registered participant. You have until June 30 to register to have this access.

Text prepared by René Morissette, co-chair 
in collaboration with Stéphane Godbout, co-chair  
5th CIGR International Conference 

Our partners: 

Quebec City Business Destination, Cercle des Ambassadeurs de Québec, Faculté des sciences de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation de Université Laval, Association des ingénieursenagroalimentaire du Québec, Université Laval, Institut de recherche et de développementenagroenvironnement.