B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation names new scientific director

March 27, 2023

The seeds have been sown and the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation (BCCAI) is ready to reap the rewards under the guidance of its new scientific director, Woo Soo Kim.

Kim, professor and associate director of the Simon Fraser University School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, steps into the role having made a name for himself as an expert and leader in his field.

"The BCCAI started playing a critical role in helping B.C.'s agricultural sector become more resilient and sustainable in the face of a changing climate. By leveraging new technologies, BCCAI can help small and medium-sized enterprises improve their resilience, enhance efficiency in controlled environments, and increase food security by enabling greater self-sufficiency in food production,” says Kim. “With funding commitments from PacifiCan and the Province of B.C., BCCAI commits to supporting innovative partnerships that drive B.C.'s agritech industry forward. As someone who is passionate about the development of new engineering solutions, it is a privilege to be able to contribute to B.C.’s agritech innovation.”

No stranger to agritech, Kim has been working on wireless sensor networking, machine learning and drone technologies in the sector and was involved in the creation of an undergraduate agritech concentration in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, which starts fall 2023.

Before joining SFU in 2010, Kim was a senior research scientist at Xerox Research Centre of Canada and a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He takes over the scientific director role from Sylvain Moreno, who founded BCCAI and brought it to fruition.

Moving forward, Moreno, a professor at the School of Interactive Arts & Technology, will be leading the national growth of Circle Innovation Solutions, in his role as CEO and Scientific Director. Circle Innovation Solutions, an SFU-hosted non-profit, supports Canada’s technology companies in their creation of intellectual property.

Moreno will also stay as a special advisor to BCCAI, supporting new scientific director Kim.

"I want to thank our B.C. agritech community for embarking on the BCCAI adventure with me. We succeeded in establishing our network across the province from Abbotsford to Tea Creek and Vancouver Island to the Kootenays,” says Moreno. “It has been three years of precious learning and collaboration with so many stakeholders. Today, BCCAI has already changed the agritech space in British Columbia. Moving forward, it will continue to launch silo-breaking projects and allow B.C.’s innovation champions to reach the global podium.”

The centre, which opened September 2022 at SFU’s Surrey campus, is generously supported with $10M through Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) and $6.5M through the Province of British Columbia to position B.C. as a world leader in agriculture technology (agritech).

It brings together industry partners, academic researchers, government and agri-producers to create more productive, diverse and resilient food supply chains, and is focused on developing, testing and piloting solutions in simulated and real-world environments to be farm-ready for commercialization.

Academic partners include the University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and others.

The centre is expected to create over 200 jobs and help train more than 700 workers, while adding 30 new agritech projects throughout the province by 2025.

“On behalf of SFU, I am delighted that Woo Soo Kim has been named BCCAI's new scientific director,” says Dugan O’Neil, vice-president research and international. “Professor Kim is an inspiring researcher and innovator with a passion for projects that benefit the wider community. With experience in agritech, he is well-positioned to advance the work of the centre and foster connections and growth for its partners.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to outgoing scientific director, professor Sylvain Moreno for his invaluable leadership to establish and support BCCAI in its first year, and wish him well on his next SFU innovation venture.”  

Earlier this year, BCCAI announced the first four companies receiving funding and support from the centre, each contributing to long-term priorities of agriculture in B.C. including Indigenous food security, vertical farming, and increased and sustainable crop production.