Like other birthday celebrations this past year, there was not a party.
But Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) marked one year of existence by announcing, on a Zoom meeting, the members of its first elected board.
The new 10-person board overseeing the research funding organization (replacing one appointed by the province) was elected by its 33 members. Most are provincial farm groups as well as two organizations representing farmer-led research groups and a handful of industry associations.
The new board chose interim chair Dave Chalack to continue in that role while cattle rancher Melissa Downing, who is also provincial co-ordinator with Alberta Verified Beef Production Plus, will serve as vice-chair.
Chalack, Downing and Stan Blade, the dean of U of Alberta’s Ag School, are the only holdovers from the interim board. The terms of the directors are varied.
“Some are in it for three years, some of them are in it for two, and some of them are in there for one,” said Chalack. “That’s to stagger it, so everybody doesn’t retire at the same time. You have continuity of the board.”
RDAR is being given $37 million a year by the province to dispense to ag research organizations with a mandate of focusing on research priorities determined by farmers.
Although it hasn’t yet released any details on grants made so far, the organization approved 58 projects, worth $16 million, in January. RDAR had received more than 100 research proposals, which were reviewed by panels of experts. (The projects will soon be listed at www.rdar.ca.)
Most of the projects had a focus on enhancing profitability or productivity on farms or making them more competitive. The scorecard used to rate projects also gives marks for extension and knowledge transfer; projects that enhance sustainable production; and ones that improve food safety and quality or create opportunities for value-added products and diversification.
Managing grants will be a priority, said Chalack, adding each project includes performance criteria and milestones.
Another priority for the organization, which now has a staff of 12, will be leveraging funds.
“We need to take that $37 million and work with other funding agencies, and make that $37 million into $50 million or $60 million,” he said.
Serving one-year terms on the board are Chalack, former Alberta Barley chair Jason Lenz, and Picture Butte producer John Kolk, who has served on a long list of farm and industry organizations.
Downing will serve a two-year term along with rancher and grazing expert Steve Kenyon and former Taber reeve, Brian Brewin who has been involved in the sugar beet sector and with irrigation districts.
Blade is serving a three-year term along with former Alberta Pulse Growers chair D’Arcy Hilgartner, Claresholm farmer and rancher Fred Lozeman, and Ponoka dairy farmer JP Brouwer.