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Friday, March 22, 2019
By Kyle Folk

Feeding the world’s population over the next 50 years will require as much food as we’ve produced since the beginning of civilization. Can we do it? 

I believe we can. But the question highlights the magnitude of this challenge. We feed 7.7 billion people today and by 2056 will need to feed a projected 10 billion. Failure to meet this challenge would mean widespread food shortages, hunger and starvation, and social and political upheaval. Since we cannot create more arable land, we must do the following:

  1. Grow more. There is a need to focus on the pre-harvest portion of the food supply chain to increase farmland yields. 
  2. Increase efficiencies throughout the supply chain, especially in our use of water.
  3. Reduce waste. The opportunities here are enormous. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that one-third of all food grown in the world, or 1.3 billion tonnes, is either lost or wasted.

Agricultural technology (AgTech) is vital to making progress in all three areas. And as I will explain, so is the farmer.

Grow More

Much research is being conducted to improve crop yields. For example scientists have found plants in the desert – which would otherwise be impaired by soil salinity – benefit from microbial life. Bacteria might be able to help non-desert plants and food crops grow amid high levels of salinity, extreme temperatures, nutrient deficiency or drought. 

Research is also underway to develop crops that are more resistant to insects (since diseases and pests reduce global food yields by approximately 35 percent) and herbicides, allowing farmers to kill weeds without harming their crops. Drought-resistant crops are also under development. 

Increase Efficiencies

Significant global investments are being made in smart farming. Companies are offering a variety of technologies and solutions for several types of precision crop farming tools, including GPS tracking, soil scanning, data management, precision irrigation, crop scouting, and yield monitoring and forecasting, among other technologies.  Indoor agriculture has been found to cut supply chain lengths dramatically, reducing the carbon footprint. Indoor and vertical growing, combined with renewable energy technology, can cut energy costs and carbon footprints.  

Reduce Waste

The opportunity to reduce food and ag waste is enormous. The challenge here is personal. I grew up in a small farming community in Saskatchewan, Canada, and in 2009 my parents suffered a devasting loss of grain due to spoilage. This incident, which could have been prevented, spurred me to invent a product to help farmers reduce grain spoilage. I did that through the establishment of IntraGrain Technologies in 2011 and a product called BIN-SENSE®.This product gives farmers the ability to monitor their stored grain, anywhere, anytime using a smartphone app. 

Grain spoilage can happen in a number of ways. For example insects can create hot spots that spread through the grain as the infestation grows. Another cause can be a high percentage of green seeds, that is, seeds that are not dry, that create pockets of moisture, spoiling the grain  through mould growth.

Even farmers who take all the precautions can experience large quantities of grain spoilage without warning. Worse, there is no insurance available. Farmers bear the full brunt of the loss, which can cost as much as $500,000 for a single incident. And those costs do not include any damage to the bin itself. Worst case, the bin becomes useless.

Canada has some of the best storage practices in the world. Yet, we still lose far too much to spoilage. Developing countries lose much more partly due to poor storage. 

Solutions Must Benefit the Farmer

It’s tempting to think of AgTech as top-down innovation, where solutions move from laboratory to field. But having grown up on a farm I know first-hand that any solution lacking buy-in from farmers is doomed.

Agriculture is still very much a family-run industry. The FAO says 90% of farms are family-owned and produce 80% of the world’s food.

Asking a producer to adopt new technology for the greater good is like asking your kids to finish their dinner because of global food insecurity. If farmers don’t value the technology they won’t use it. 

So what is a key success factor for feeding the world’s hungry? Keeping the farmers’ best interests in mind. 

Kyle Folk leads AgTech strategy at Calian Group Ltd. He is founder and President of IntraGrain Technologies Inc., acquired by Calian in 2018. 


Monday, March 11, 2019
By Dr. François Lemay

 

Nuclear waste can be highly toxic and last generations. This is not disputed. 

But nuclear waste management has come a long way since the mid-20th Century, and today is serviced with effective, evidence-based solutions. The challenge is not so much one of science and technology. Rather, it is public engagement, consultations, and genuine dialogue between the public and the experts.

The public is justified in its concern for nuclear waste. No question. These concerns about nuclear waste are why the industry is subject to such stringent regulations. It’s why management and workers take their compliance requirements so seriously.

The nuclear industry follows a hierarchy of short-term, long-term and permanent storage approaches. These approaches are based on waste’s varying rates of radioactive decay – some taking 100 years to decay while others last thousands of years.  

This hierarchy of storage is based on the best science available. It is not infallible but it is a vast improvement over practices that took place in previous decades. Waste produced during and immediately after the Second World War – what we today call legacy waste – was sometimes disposed with less rigour since regulatory oversight was not fully developed. For example, early experiments in nuclear energy at the Chalk River Laboratories west of Ottawa, in the 1940s and ’50s, led to some contaminated soil. 

The contrast between how nuclear waste was handled, then and now, is like night and day. Today, regulations are stringent and practices cautious. Yet, within public perception, the haphazard approaches of the past are easily conflated with the rigorous, effective practices of the present. 

Early in our century, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Canada (NWMO) was established to look at managing Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The NWMO held a series of public consultations and came back with two recommendations:

1) Waste should be retrievable – The organization concluded that technology could conceivably turn today’s nuclear waste into tomorrow’s resource, or that new methods might be found for safely using it or destroying it. 

2) Deep geologic disposal is viable – Uranium is mined from geological areas in which the material has sat undisturbed for millions of years. The NWMO concluded that if the waste can be returned to similarly stable geological areas, it can be stored safely until it decays. 

The challenge now lies in identifying hosting communities in geologically suitable locations, allowing for long-term disposal that is socially acceptable, technically sound and environmentally responsible. The entire process will be subject to strict regulatory oversight to ensure that it is done correctly. 

Through meaningful dialogue and extensive public consultation and communication, acceptable and safe locations can be found. It is vital that we listen to public concerns and share the evidence we have for safe storage solutions. This dialogue should involve communities where waste could be stored as well as any downstream communities that have concerns. 

Two-way discussions are essential to informing the community about how waste is managed and risks minimized. Community members need to share their concerns and have their questions answered. Such a dialogue is essential to gaining necessary community support and establishing awareness about storage plans. 

 

Dr. Francois Lemay is a nuclear safety expert and Chief Nuclear Engineer at Calian Nuclear, formerly International Safety Research Inc. He has 34 years of experience in radiation protection, risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, safety analysis, emergency response plans, procedures and systems, emergency response standards and guidelines, audits and evaluations, emergency response exercises, courses and training, and radiation transport. He has conducted training in over 20 countries for the IAEA and continues to provide expertise in radioprotection to nuclear power providers in Canada. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2019
By Susanne Cork

 

Resilience goes beyond your traditional emergency management and preparedness: it extends to community capacity building, health, cyber security, business continuity and critical infrastructure.

Today, the word “resilience” is used frequently in many contexts, from community readiness to health to business continuity. Frankly, I am enjoying the resilience buzzword because I believe it says something about our time and place. Strong resilience is sought because today’s adversity is real. The literal meaning of resilience is broad: to have the capacity to recover quickly from stress, challenges or misfortune.

Today, people, communities and organizations must have the capacity to handle adversity in its many forms, to have capacity to carry on in a “normal” state. At Calian we have a unique perspective on resilience because of our diverse business lines. We urge people and organizations to invest in resilience because we have seen the ROI first-hand: failure to rebound from challenges or misfortune bears very real costs – and not only financial.

For resilience in 2019 I would like to make a few predictions and observations. Resilience goes beyond your traditional emergency management and preparedness. In my view, it extends to community capacity building, health, cyber security, business continuity and critical infrastructure.

Community resilience 

We witnessed worst-case scenarios this year in California as wildfires wiped out entire communities. While community resilience was big in 2018 -- I predict it will be even bigger in 2019. We witnessed worst-case scenarios this year in California as wildfires wiped out entire communities. British Columbia’s devastating wildfires set a record-high annual burn area in the province of more than 1.35 million hectares. In the Ottawa region, a tornado ripped through surrounding communities, damaging or destroying approximately 200 buildings and leading more than 2,000 people to register for assistance with the Quebec branch of the Canadian Red Cross.

These are just a few examples of many events that damaged or devastated communities around the globe this year. Achieving community resilience depends on needs, resources and community involvement. Regardless of size or geographic location, communities must have the capacity to be aware of threats, be prepared to handle them, and respond and recover quickly from disasters or other challenges. When it comes to resilience, the goal is to return the community to as-close-to “normal” as quickly as possible – and to establish a “new normal” that is more resilient than what the community had previously.

The wildfires in Western Canada were concerning for northern, remote and many Indigenous communities. These communities can be disproportionally affected by disasters such as floods and wildfires. First, they are not as accessible for the provision of emergency services. Second, they may lack local administrative and technical capacity, affecting response and coordination capabilities. Third, First Nations may rely more on the local ecosystem for food, resources and cultural well-being – which may become diminished or inaccessible following a disaster.

When the risks are higher, the need for preparedness, response and mitigation planning is elevated. Communities need professional advisory and training services, adapted to their culture or unique circumstances, to help build capacity and enable resilience. In 2019 I expect demand for these services to better reflect community needs.

Health

Health will be central to the resilience story in 2019, as it was in 2018 – particularly mental health. One in five Canadians experience a mental illness or addiction problem annually, according to the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I anticipate two big health stories in 2019: mental health and military veterans’ health.

In mental health generally, so much work has been done to reduce the mental health stigma and share important research about the complex links between childhood development, trauma, addiction and mental health. I anticipate these discussions to expand as mental health resilience becomes a key resilience topic in 2019. Access is paramount. Canadians need access to professionals to help them deal with trauma-related disorders and addiction issues, among other top challenges.

Veterans and military family health will again be prominent in 2019. I was very happy to see the Government of Canada single out resilience in Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy, where it emphasizes “well-supported, diverse, resilient people and families.” It was heartening to see Canada’s Defence Policy expand beyond capabilities, recognizing people as a key national resource. What better way to support the resilience of the nation than to support the

health of our serving members, veterans and their loved ones. I expect we’ll hear more about this theme in 2019.

The very people who practice resilience on the front lines during emergencies must also demonstrate resilience. Based on our extensive work with the military, veterans and the RCMP, Calian’s health professionals understand the unique demands and stresses of such vocations. First responders must have access to training and health services that help them cope with stressful incidents and events that they deal with on a daily basis. In parallel, they need training to deal with situations involving people with serious mental health issues. On a personal note, I also feel a need to help society’s most vulnerable. The people most at risk should get the help they deserve – be they first responders, police officers, military veterans or people in Canada’s First Nations communities who may be risk of suicide or self-harm.

Cyber security

The world of cyber security continues to evolve quickly – in terms of both threats and security solutions. The growing threat landscape is leading more organizations, large and small, to recognize that they must be prepared for the next cyber attack or breach. The Government of Canada has clearly identified this priority with its investment in cyber operations and the hiring and training of cyber operators.

Ottawa’s new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security will provide a single window for expert advice and services for governments, critical infrastructure operators, and the public and private sectors, to strengthen their cyber security.

While there are many aspects to the cyber security story, in 2019 I believe the “human firewall” will become better recognized for its effectiveness. Calian’s cyber security practitioners observe that an organization’s people – its security awareness -- continues to be the weakest link. Today, to go without proper cyber security and awareness training for staff is to take on much higher risk. All levels of the organization must be educated and trained on the risks and threats related to data and network security. This “human firewall” provides the best ROI when it comes to cyber security – which is why I predict we will see an increasing number of groups conduct security awareness training in 2019. It is critical to cyber security resilience.

Nuclear power

The accident at Fukushima Daichi in 2011 was a harsh lesson for nuclear power plants across the world – and the industry has responded. Over the last few years, nuclear plants have improved their ability to adapt, survive extreme conditions and recover from events. Nuclear plants now own flexible standby equipment that can be deployed to restore the powering or cooling of essential equipment. The toolkit to respond to an emergency also now includes the usual planning and training for anticipated emergencies as well as a more flexible approach to tackle unanticipated, extreme events.

In 2019 and beyond, resilience will be a world-wide concern for the nuclear industry. Nuclear capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with about 50 reactors currently being constructed in 15 countries, including China, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Given this growth, our nuclear experts at Calian predict resilience in 2019 will involve additional focus on severe accident management guidelines, emergency mitigation equipment, and innovative training solutions involving simulations. Look for these themes to be important aspects of resilience in 2019.

Food security

As a final topic for resilience in 2019 I would like to highlight food security – an issue Calian is familiar with through our AgTech products. Population growth is putting upward pressure on world agriculture resources. The Earth’s population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that food production must grow by 70% to meet this demand.

Around the world agricultural producers will need farmland resilience to ensure their yields remain high. The issue is more acute in developing countries where food security may be an issue. Globally, ag producers have an opportunity to take advantage of technology to improve both yield and revenues –and thereby resilience. We believe there is significant value in using technology to solve issues like the tracking and monitoring of food and agriculture products. These technologies can prevent spoilage, increase traceability and support overall food security. I expect the AgTech story get some attention in 2019.

The above article was originally published December 21, 2018 in The Resilience Post. 

Susanne Cork is Director of Business Development for Custom Training Solutions and Emergency Management Solutions at Calian Group. A diversified professional services and solutions company based in Ottawa, Calian employs 3,000 people with offices and projects that span Canada, U.S. and international markets. | [email protected]


Sunday, December 16, 2018
By Rima Aristocrat and Susanne Cork

 

For generations, women were discouraged from considering the skilled trades as career or vocational options. Subtly or not-so subtly, they were guided away from jobs that required physical strength or endurance. While these attitudes are changing, they have effectively left many women out of high-demand skilled trades like welding, plumbing, carpentry or automotive repair.

In the digital economy, we have an opportunity to avoid making the same mistake as our forebears. Cyber and network security represents the first trade of the new economy. Cybersecurity professionals are not building walls, fitting pipes or doing home repairs – as tradespeople they are building firewalls, patching network platforms and installing infrastructure in offices, homes and facilities across the country. Unfortunately, as is the case with the broader tech sector, a gender imbalance is equally evident in the cybersecurity trade. The 2018 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study found women comprise just 24% of the global cybersecurity profession. 

"Yet governments and the private sector are having difficulty filling these important roles – a situation worsened by the fact that so few women are engaged in the trade."

The demand for a global cyber workforce is growing rapidly as organizations recognize a need to defend against and prepare for cyber attacks and breaches. Yet governments and the private sector are having difficulty filling these important roles – a situation worsened by the fact that so few women are engaged in the trade. The global workforce gap for cybersecurity professionals is already close to three million, and will continue to grow, according to the (ISC)2 study. What a tremendous opportunity to look into the barriers women face in joining this workforce. 

To understand how and why so few women are choosing well-paying careers in cyber and network security, we are working with the Department of National Defence to identify barriers preventing their engagement. Calian and Willis College’s Veteran Friendly Transition Program have a long and recognized history supporting the Canadian Armed Forces. Whether through health care, training, education, employment or easing military member transition to civilian life, Calian and Willis are leaders in serving those who serve us.

The Government of Canada is increasingly in need of cyber defence analysts to ensure its networks are protected, with recruits coming through the Department of National Defence (DND) and the government’s new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. They’ve made it a priority to recruit more women into these important roles. 

"Our organizations are engaged in training programs for these cybersecurity defence professionals, where we have seen first-hand that enrollment is predominantly men."

Our organizations are engaged in training programs for these cybersecurity defence professionals, where we have seen first-hand that enrollment is predominantly men. With DND, we wanted to better understand why women in the military and defence are failing to choose a cyber career path. Hence our new project: Engaging Women in Cyber Defence. Its website CyberWoman.ca is home to a survey that we hope women across the country will complete, as well as people across the military and veteran community.

In the spring of 2018, we had an opportunity to apply to the Government of Canada’s Defence Engagement Program. This innovative grant program seeks targeted expertise from academia, NGOs, think tanks and the private sector to inform, confirm, or challenge current defence policy thinking. The spring call for applications sought project proposals focused on the priorities outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy.

While DND wants to increase the number of women enrolling in Canada’s cyber defence, it faces a dual challenge on this front: In addition to low participation in cyber, fewer women than men choose a military career in the first place. As demand for cyber professionals continues to grow, now is the time to identify barriers to such career paths for women and better understand the reasons for low participation.

We see this project as an important start that opens a dialog and, for both of our organizations, provides guidance on how to expand female participation in our cybersecurity training and employment programs. We have an opportunity to engage millions of Canadian women in exciting, rewarding and well-paid careers across the tech, IT and cyber sectors. Let’s not commit the same errors of the generations before us. Help us reach these women – because we can do better.

The above article was originally published in The Hill Times on November 25, 2018. 

Rima Aristocrat is President and CEO of Ottawa- and Arnprior-based Willis College, offering industry-led, job-ready skills training and education and enabling adults to transition into careers in business, healthcare, technology and cybersecurity. Susanne Cork is the Director of Business Development for the Custom Training Solutions and Emergency Management Solutions service line with Calian Group, a diversified professional services company based in Ottawa that employs 3,000 people with offices and projects that span Canada, U.S. and international markets. To participate in the survey visit cyberwoman.ca.  


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