Producers, academia, and government unite in Kelowna to tackle climate change through technology and collaboration

December 05, 2023

The Okanagan Valley, renowned for its scenic beauty and vibrant community, stands as a global leader in fruit and wine production, commanding an impressive 86% of British Columbia's vineyard acreage. As the premier grape growing region, the Okanagan Valley's BC wine industry is a powerhouse, employing over 14,000 individuals and contributing a staggering $3.75 billion to the economy annually—an oasis of economic opportunities.

However, the specter of climate change has cast its shadow on this agricultural haven. Recent years have witnessed a discernible rise in average temperatures, reshaping the dynamics of the growing season, disrupting crop development, and challenging the viability of certain cultivars. Concurrently, the region grapples with shifting precipitation patterns, disrupting the temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall, thereby impacting water availability and necessitating adjustments in irrigation practices. The onslaught of heatwaves, wildfires, and storms in the current year has further intensified the environmental challenges faced by the region.

To address these pressing concerns, the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation (BCCAI) hosted a Knowledge Café on November 22nd, with the support of the Pacific Economic Development Canada and the Province of B.C. The event brought together top-leaders from industry, academia, and government to collectively confront the challenges posed by climate change and explore sustainable alternatives.

The panel discussion, featuring Glen Lucas, General Manager of the B.C. Fruit Grower’s Association, Susan Murch, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), and Jazz Pabla, Director of Information Services from the City of Kelowna, delved into the sector's prospects and elucidated the pivotal role of technology in mitigating climate change's impact on local production.

Following the panel, participants engaged in facilitated discussions, uniting local producers, associations, and academics to tackle long-term challenges in food production and security in the Okanagan region. Emphasis was placed on integrating technology to fortify businesses against these challenges, fostering collaboration among academia, industry, and government to overcome obstacles and cultivate opportunities in the region.

BCCAI Scientific Director Woo Soo Kim says "We have gained insights into the agricultural challenges specific to the Okanagan region by actively listening to farmers and collaborating with our partners in BC companies. Recognizing the need for a coordinated effort, we aim to facilitate a streamlined approach and reduce technological barriers for SMEs, fostering the seamless adoption of innovative agritech solutions."

By fostering ongoing dialogue and collaboration among industry leaders, academia, and government, BCCAI aims to be a catalyst for innovative solutions. The Knowledge Café serves as a starting point, laying the foundation for a resilient and sustainable future. The Centre anticipates continuing its role as a facilitator, driving the adoption of technology, and enabling a dynamic network where local businesses can thrive, adapt, and collectively navigate the evolving landscape of agriculture in the Okanagan Valley.