Building the relationship between RDAR (Results Driven Agriculture Research) and ASBs

CEO and Chair meet with the ASBPC to talk about operations and projects; Resolution 2-22;

On May 16, 2022 the ASBPC was pleased to host a delegation from Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR). CEO Mark Redmond, and board chair David Chalack attended on behalf of RDAR and shared a presentation about the organization and the research they are funding in Alberta.

Prior to the delegation joining the meeting, the ASB Provincial Committee (Committee) discussed two motions from the Peace Region asking the Committee to inquire about funding transparency and advocate for representation from the Peace region on the RDAR governing board. Both concerns were discussed and addressed by the RDAR delegation over the course of the meeting.

Regional representation

The RDAR board is not designed to be regionally represented; directors are nominated and elected by RDAR member associations based on the skills and experience they bring to the board. The board is set up to replace three (3) members each year, one (1) director will be nominated to be re-elected from within the board, and RDAR’s membership will nominate two (2) members. Members can nominate any person they feel will add value to the governance of RDAR. Nominees do not have to come from member organizations or a specific location.

Ideally, a governing board should have members that bring a variety of skills and experience to the table. Anyone with board governance experience and background skills such as finance, legal, agriculture, or research can put their name forward for nomination by reaching out to an RDAR member. A list of RDAR members can be found on their website. Nominations and elections take place in the fall of each year, with the election in January with the new board announced at the AGM. Directors serve for a three (3) year term. The term is renewable once.

Transparency in funding

The RDAR association is a lean association that must keep administration costs at less than 8% (6% for 2021-2022). RDAR is managing over 470 projects with only 15 employees, which is unusual in the world of research grants. How do they do it? This is possible because of a data management system that RDAR calls Agriculture Research Grant Organizer (ARGO). The system was developed specifically for RDAR.

ARGO digitizes and automates specific administrative steps, reducing the time and personnel needed to follow up individually with grant recipients and compiling results for reporting on outcomes. Researchers submit grant applications online, and ARGO can look for duplications and identify possible collaborations with other projects to encourage collaboration and reduce duplications. ARGO also allows staff to run reports that summarize the number of projects and research investments by producer identified priorities, by sector, by topic and several other criteria. Anyone can access the list of approved projects and the RDAR investment by visiting the Approved Projects page on the RDAR website and using the online search function.

To give you some idea of the value of ARGO, the Agriculture Funding Consortium (AFC) is made up of 19 commodity commission funders from western Canada and RDAR. The AFC is using ARGO for their management process. Consortium members review projects together and then decide who will fund them. More than one AFC member may fund projects financed by the consortium. For the 2021 AFC competition, 2/3 of the funding for projects comes from RDAR and is managed by RDAR.

Concerning the 12 Applied Research Associations and Forage Associations (the Associations), RDAR has distributed a total of $11.2M in project and transition funding to the Associations since RDAR was created in 2020. This is a significant increase in funding from the now obsolete Agriculture Opportunities Fund (AOF).

Support for extension – Resolution 2-22

In addition to the motions from the Peace, the Minister’s response to Resolution 2-22: Restoration of AFRED Network of Experts referred to an RDAR project where they have contracted Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) to explore the “extension gap and serving as a catalyst to bring together a committee, comprised of a cross section of industry members to develop a cooperative extension model for Albertaa guided approach to evaluate the current state of extension in Alberta. It is looking to identify gaps, examine other jurisdictional systems and make recommendations on an improved cooperative extension model for the future.”

Recognizing that agriculture extension services and knowledge transfer are key to measuring the success of RDAR, RDAR has backed a task force of 7 individuals and MNP to identify the needs and gaps in extension and provide guidance on how to build a system in Alberta that meets the needs of farmers. The task force members are:

Crop Industry  Ward Toma, General Manager
Alberta Canola Producers
Livestock IndustryValerie Carney, Poultry Innovation Lead
Poultry Innovation Partnership
Agriculture Research Association/Forage Liisa Jeffrey, Executive Director
Peace Country Beef & Forage Association
Academic InstituteAndrew Dunlop, Director of Research & Innovation,
Grande Prairie Regional College
Alberta Agriculture, Forestry, and Rural Economic Development Jake Kotowich, Executive Director, Crop Assurance and Rural Programming Branch (including the ASB Program), AFRED
Private SectorNichole Neubauer, Irvine School Agriculture Discovery Centre
and Producer, Neubauer Farms
RDAR D’Arcy Hilgartner, RDAR Director
and Producer, Hillcrest Acres

Note that Liisa Jeffrey and Andrew Dunlop are from the Peace.  The first report from the task force is expected in June. Broad stakeholder engagement will follow over the summer.

In the meantime, ASB Chairs are scheduled to meet virtually with ADM John Conrad and staff on June 8 for the annual spring Townhall. The ASBPC requested specifically that ED Jake Kotowich give an update on the task force progress and be available to answer questions from the ASB Chairs.

RDAR Summer Round-Up

On June 1, RDAR will be hosting their first Summer Round Up at Spruce Meadows near Calgary. The Summer Round-Up will bring together producers, experts, and leaders to explore today’s challenges ranging from the rippling effects of war on the economy, food production, supply chains, and food security and affordability; to the issues presented by environmental change and climate legislation; to the effects of energy cost to agriculture and food affordability; and the risks to health through disease. Anyone interested in learning more about RDAR or being involved is encouraged to participate.

For more information and registration, please follow this round-up link.

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