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Innovation centre campaign receives big donation

Shur-Go Farm Services made a large donation to Assiniboine College to aid the agriculture program.
wp sur-gro farms
Ron Helwer at the future site of the Prairie Innovation Centre.
WESTERN PRODUCER — Assiniboine Community College is getting closer to its fundraising goal to build an ag innovation centre at its campus in Brandon.

Yesterday the owner of Shur-Gro Farm Services, Ron Helwer, donated $500,000 to the Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at the college.

Helwer made the donation on behalf of Shur-Gro, himself and his late wife, Vera.

"I think it's a great expansion (for ACC), and it makes sense for the Westman area. Increasing local graduates in agriculture programs, that's great for everyone, not just our business," said Helwer, honorary co-chair of the Prairie Innovation Centre campaign cabinet.

"When I look at where our people (employees) get educated, Assiniboine plays a huge role."

The college has a plan to expand the number of students in agriculture, environment and agricultural technology programs from 300 to 800, the college website says.

The innovation centre, which is a key part of that plan, will include new programming, such as robotics and industrial automation, food science technology and advanced agriculture.

The college already offers training in agribusiness, for agricultural equipment technicians, sustainable food systems and other ag-related courses.

"The centre aims to expand training capacity to better meet labour market demands, and it will also be a hub for agricultural education, innovation and applied research," said Tim Hore, Dean of Assiniboine's school of agriculture and environment.

"This will give us the ability to collaborate and work with industry to transfer that knowledge to the ag sector."

The college began fundraising for the Prairie Innovation Centre in 2020. The company hopes to raise $15 million in private funds and $40 million in public investments to build the $50 million centre.

Earlier this year, the Manitoba Crop Alliance donated $100,000 to the centre, while MazerGroup, which owns ag dealerships in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, donated $500,000.

Johanne Ross, executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom Canada and co-chair of the Prairie Innovation Centre campaign, believes the centre could ignite student interest in agriculture.

"This will provide a venue to turn students' heads toward the great possibilities in agriculture and food production."