BC-Based Agtech SME Mimics Ant Colonies to Innovate the Burgeoning Controlled Environment Agriculture Sector

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, February 21, 2024 – The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) today unveiled the third story of an eight-part series highlighting results of the agtech research & innovation projects it has funded through its 2022 Open Competition and its Beef & Pork Primary Processing Automation & Robotics Program.

CAAIN’s mandate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is to fund technological responses to the most significant opportunities and challenges facing the nation’s agri-food producers and primary processors. That means supporting promising efforts with the potential to provide economic, social, and/or environmental value. The featured stories demonstrate that CAAIN is doing just that, as does the $32M it is investing in 35 projects with a combined total value of almost $100M.

“Environmental scientists are warning us not to underestimate the impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity around the world,” explained Darrell Petras, CAAIN’s CEO. “Extremes of heat and cold, precipitation and drought, and other climactic disruptions are the new normal. Now, more than ever, we need out-of-the-box thinking—or perhaps, as in this case, ‘inside-the-box’ solutions. Controlled environment agriculture, or CEA, is one of the paths innovators are exploring to mitigate shortages of arable land and clean water and the negative effects of new and harsher weather patterns. The project whose story we’re telling today is on track to help greenhouse operators fully automate their facilities, reducing resource consumption and dependence on dwindling pools of unskilled labour, and generating consistent, profitable outcomes.”

ANT: An Innovative Approach to a Fully Autonomous Greenhouse Mobility Platform is a brilliant blend of agriculture and state-of-the-art technology, including AI, machine learning, and robotics. Led by North Vancouver’s ecoation, the initiative is receiving $627,898 in CAAIN funding out of a total project value of $1,868,993. One of the fascinating elements of ANT is that its name reflects its origins. The development team, headed up by ecoation CEO, Dr. Saber Miresmailli, found inspiration in the organisational dynamics of ant colonies, where each member of the collective carries out a specific function. The results to date have been remarkable, and the platform seems poised to greatly advance the fast-developing field of CEA.

For more information, check out the story online.



The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) is a not-for-profit company launched in July 2019 with funding of $49.5‑million from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, and assistance from Alberta Innovates in the form of significant in-kind contributions. CAAIN drives collaborative agri-food technology research and innovation from coast to coast.

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Project Funding Inquiries
Darrell Petras, P.Ag.
Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network
Media Inquiries
Eric Morin, CMP
Manager, Communications and Marketing
Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network
780.405.3742 | eric.morin@caain.ca