MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Clean Technology in the Legislature

Today, MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Clean Technology in the Legislature. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript below.

I’m very pleased, on this first day of the fall session, to speak to the resolution from the member for Port Moody–Coquitlam in support of clean technology innovation. It shows we care about the future. It’s time for a new generation of thinkers to take on the challenges that have come from the unintended consequences of the choices of previous generations.

I speak particularly with respect to agriculture. Back in 1950, with the daunting challenges of a burgeoning global population, the world embraced a new way of doing agriculture to feed the world. It was dubbed the green revolution, but that name doesn’t reflect our understanding of “green” today.

One of its cornerstones has been the use of chemical solutions to overcome the bane to agriculture: weeds and pests. It’s a way that has come to be challenged. It’s an expensive route to take, and it has been shown to have dire consequences for the environment.

New systems had to take root. Enter clean technology. It’s one thing to say no to the industry addiction to pesticides and herbicides. It’s another thing to find successful alternatives. But the demand has driven innovation in clean technologies that support effective, economical and environmentally sound, sustainable agricultural practices that do not rely on ever-increasing chemical inputs to grow food for the globe.

In B.C., we can proudly turn to a number of innovations that have been developed to support agriculture and are gaining attention worldwide. These technological innovations are helping streamline farm operations, reduce environmental impacts and remain competitive in a highly competitive global marketplace.

One 2018 award-winning North Vancouver company teamed up with two Dutch firms to develop robots with sensors and artificial intelligence to work in greenhouses. Another B.C. firm is named in the Global Cleantech Group’s top-100 list this year. It uses technology in orchards to provide details to guide growers’ responses to the challenges of insects, disease and plant health conditions.

British Columbia has a lot of potential to grow the agrifood sector. Clean technology can facilitate that growth. In my own community, Island Coastal Economic Trust, with capital provided by the province of B.C., recognizes the importance of agricultural innovation. It is funding a local agrifood innovation strategy led by the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.

Clean tech innovation is being embraced worldwide. Helping the local agricultural sector tap into it will mean growth as it is better able to compete. It can access digitization, automation, production supply chains, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer demand. This strategy will open the doors for ag tech start-ups and the agricultural sector as a whole to enhance and create new sustainable ag food opportunities right in the Comox Valley.

During the recent Select Standing Committee on Agriculture consultations investigating small-scale meat processing, interest was expressed in using technology to help support and expand the industry into more rural and remote communities. Given that wages for technology jobs tend to be better-paying than the B.C. average, supporting clean tech makes sense as we work to make life more affordable with good-paying jobs in communities throughout B.C.

Supporting young British Columbians to enter the field is critical to the success of this sector, which is one of the largest drivers of the B.C. economy. It’s so valuable for students to hear about our government’s investments: investments in scholarships to attract and retain the best grad students and to inspire women to participate in science- and tech-based professions and the investment of $10.5 million for my favourite co-ops and entrepreneurial training for hands-on experience. And then there’s the $102 million in funding for 75 research projects.

It’s exciting to see our government’s investments to support the next generation to meet our unfolding and very real 21st-century challenges. I particularly look forward to seeing the continuing cultivation of clean technology innovation to grow our life-sustaining agrifoods sector.