Digital technologies – and technologists – are transforming Canada’s most environmentally sensitive industries, setting the nation up for successful sustainability goals and creating an exciting new high-tech workplace in some previously traditional sectors like agriculture and oil & gas.
At ECO Canada, we recently released a report entitled A Green Economic Recovery: Trends, Developments, and Opportunities for the Environmental Workforce. Among other trends, the report speaks about the ways in which many Canadian companies have adopted digital transformation, leading to better environmental practice while creating economic growth, new jobs, and prosperity. Such innovations will help us more responsibly, healthily and equitably feed ourselves and the world, something that we have to take very seriously given the rapid increase of the world’s population.
Technologically skilled talent can find abundant employment opportunities in environmental work, even in industries where you may not think of first as high-tech. One good example is agriculture, which is integrating digital technologies and transforming their environmental practices. Technology is improving crop yield and quality while increasing efficiency and reducing waste. “Smart farming”- complete with computer-guided tractors, remote sensing, digital imagery and supply-chain management – is reducing the environmental impact of food production by introducing artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and machine learning to streamline operations and responsibly manage resources. Such technologies are increasingly created and validated across Canada’s Smart Farm Network, which connects farms and colleges in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. It’s what our earth requires, and increasingly it’s what consumers demand.
Alberta-based Decisive Farming (recently acquired by TELUS) is an example of a technology employer whose work impacts the environment. They use digital imagery, topography and other data layers to program the on-board computers of tractors and other farm machinery so that agriculture specialists can use precisely the right amount of water, seed, and fertilizer exactly where it is required – and nowhere else. Harvest is maximized, while water and herbicides/pesticides are reduced and equipment is used more efficiently.
Let’s imagine we have perfected and scaled the ability to produce food responsibly. There’s still the matter of getting it to people, efficiently. In Canada, we waste around $50 billion in food (about 20% of all food produced) along the supply chain. Here’s where digital transformation comes into play to increase the sustainability of the industry, using data transparency, IoT and AI to predict, monitor and analyze the movement of food. Canada’s AI supercluster, Scale AI, is currently partnering with Sedna, a Nova Scotia company (that now has offices in Norway) that uses IoT to monitor in real time that province’s lucrative lobster supply chains to guarantee that healthy, live lobsters arrive at their far-flung destinations. Digital transformation not only powers successful business, but it also helps protect our environment, fight climate change and clear Canada’s path toward net zero.
Canada’s burgeoning cleantech sector is also prime for upcoming talent. Cleantech has helped drive significant improvement in environmental performance in industries such as oil and gas and transportation. In fact, in 2020 a dozen Canadian companies were named to the Global Cleantech 100 — more than from any other country except the United States. From technologies for oil spill response and cleanup, bioremediation of tailings ponds, asset visualization, and industrial-scale hydrogen production, the oil and gas sector is actively engaged in moving solutions forward.
Cleantech innovation has driven significant improvement in the environmental performance of the sector, and has lowered greenhouse gas emissions, through many clean fuel technologies, digital solutions, innovative water technologies, reclamation and methane technologies, and hydrocarbon extraction. There’s also tremendous opportunities for consumer-facing cleantech, from creating more sustainable products to transitioning services to reduce greenhouse emissions and plastic waste.
All in all, it’s good news for our emerging tech talent here in Canada. By 2029, job growth and retirement will account for 233,500 net environmental job openings. If we continue to make solid business decisions, including those around workforce development and training investments, we will be well positioned to strengthen our economy in exciting new ways while taking an environmentally responsible direction.
If you’re an environmental employer looking to onboard more tech talent into your organization, wage funding is available through the Digital Skills 4 Youth Program. We thank Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada, who have made this program possible. Visit www.eco.ca/employment-programs to learn more.