Guest Post from EMILI (The Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative)

EMILI: Working with industry and academia to accelerate the adoption of intelligent technologies in Manitoba.

Tech Manitoba


There is a longstanding relationship between agriculture and the people of Manitoba. The agriculture industry in the Prairies has always required a hard working, strategic, and compassionate workforce. As the agriculture industry continues to evolve with the integration of intelligent technologies we need to build a workforce to grow alongside it.

In March 2022, EMILI conducted an interview with Rob Henderson, President and CEO of BioTalent Canada. The interview highlighted the labour challenges the agri-bio and bio-economy will face in the upcoming years. One of the significant notes from the interview is that there will be 65,000 job openings in the bio-economy left unfilled in 2029. The aging agriculture workforce is a challenge for the industry. Part of addressing this labour issue will be ensuring that Canadians and newcomers to Canada are able to meaningfully participate in the new opportunities presented in the digital agriculture industry.

Manitoba’s Digital Agriculture Table, a group of industry and academic leaders in the province, defines digital agriculture as: the application of intelligent technologies, before, during and after on-farm production.

The agriculture industry is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to aid in the production of higher yields, produced in a more sustainable, productive and climate-resilient way with greater mitigation and control of pests and disease. New technologies are able to provide real-time monitoring of soils, moisture and growing conditions. Data collected throughout the growing season supports producers’ decision making and can improve a wide range of production, processing and marketing activities. The digital agriculture industry in Canada is in need of a workforce with diverse skill sets and backgrounds to meet the changing demands of a highly technical industry.

While jobs in digital agriculture require a foundational level of agri-food understanding, a variety of skillsets are required. Those who have skill sets in technology, data analytics, and human skills are necessary to develop a robust workforce that can adapt to the market and adjust to the changing landscape effectively. Digital agriculture has transformed the agri-food industry over the last decade and the transformation of practices and technologies will continue to evolve over the next decade.

EMILI is working to bridge these opportunities through our activities. We have developed initiatives with our partners to spread awareness about career opportunities in digital agriculture as well as programming to reskill workers into the digital agriculture space.

EMILI leads the Explore Project, which delivers programming to youth in grades K-12 that focuses on STEM, in-demand skills, and the promotion of future career opportunities in digital agriculture, plant protein, and the agri-food industry. The program successfully engaged over 7500 students in the summer of 2021 and has presented to 60 classrooms across the Prairies this past school year. The project addresses the industry’s growing need for a skilled workforce with a focus on engaging students from non-traditional backgrounds in STEM and digital agriculture. This program is helping to shift the perspective of agriculture in the Prairies so everyone can see how they can get involved.

We are also working with Palette Skills, who are a national non-profit organization that has launched an exciting pilot project to engage high-growth companies in the province’s AgTech space. The pilot project will uncover the most pressing talent challenges and then develop a reskilling program that retains workers in high-demand jobs within these companies. The pilot program is based in Saskatchewan and we are excited to bring it to Manitoba as it expands.

EMILI seeks to grow the digital agriculture ecosystem in Manitoba. The greater our collaboration across stakeholders the more effective our efforts will be. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on our activities.