Largest personal donation in Alberta colleges' history to create Smart Agriculture hub

OLDS, AB, March 27, 2017 /CNW/ - Acclaimed Canadian entrepreneur, oilfield industry leader and dedicated philanthropist, David P. Werklund and his partner, Susan Norman, have gifted Olds College with $16M, the largest ever personal donation to an Alberta college or technical institution.

The tiered donation will have a total cumulative impact of $32M when all leverage opportunities can be realized. Werklund's donation begins with $2M in cash, supplemented by a matching component where Werklund will provide one dollar for every three raised, up to $4M. The final element is a $10M estate gift that will ensure the sustainability of the institute over time. The donation is designed to incent maximum participation and donations from other individuals, industry and governments.

This transformational gift will result in the creation of the Werklund Agriculture Institute (WAI) and will specialize in Smart Agriculture. With a vision to be the  world's premier destination for an integrated agricultural leadership learning experience, the WAI will engage students, researchers and industry in smart and sustainable agriculture and agri-business solutions, leadership and education to contribute to Western Canada's leadership position as an agriculture and food powerhouse.

"Mr. Werklund and Ms. Norman's generous donation will accelerate engagement, innovation and technology adoption within the agriculture and food industry, and open up new agriculture enterprise in Alberta and around the world," commented Olds College president, Dr. H.J (Tom) Thompson.

Momentum began to build when two additional donations were announced at the Olds College Gala on March 24. The Students' Association of Olds College and the Olds College Alumni Association have each committed $1.25M toward the Beyond campaign, to kick off the matching component of the Werklund donation.

The Werklund Agriculture Institute will feature four key components:

  • Werklund Growth Centre – will provide a Hub for companies, entrepreneurs, investors and students to access Olds College land and facilities for development, scale up and demonstration of Smart Agriculture technologies, products and services.
  • Thought Leader in Smart Agriculture and Sustainability – a unique, fully endowed industry leader to serve as a connector, and advisor on smart agriculture technology, innovation and business for accelerating company growth and access to capital.
  • A Producer Mentor Program - a year-long partnership with Producers and Agriculture industry leaders, exposing students to Smart Agriculture practices.
  • Olds College Agriculture and Food Enterprise – a vertically integrated "gate to plate" agriculture and food learning enterprise where students engage in business decision making and management.

Werklund's upbringing on a rural Alberta farm instilled in him a deep respect for protecting and nurturing the land which sustains life through food production and job creation. He credits his success in business, strong work ethic and core values with that upbringing as well.

"Susan and I are thrilled to lead the way in support of this made-in-Alberta solution for specialized education, research and partnerships in Smart Agriculture," commented Werklund. "Our vision is that students will experience a world class education centered around best practices in smart and sustainable agriculture - practices that are environmentally responsible, fully leverage current technologies and ignite their passion for agriculture."

About Smart Agriculture
Smart Agriculture is the optimization of technology and science for the efficient and sustainable use of land and water for economic and environmental benefit. 

It supports integrated, 'learning' in precision, data driven agriculture and food production systems by utilizing big data, technology and enhanced internet connectivity to increase the quality and quantity of agricultural production. 

[Adapted from Feb 2015 Forbes Magazine the-future-of-agriculture-smart-farming/#455a9d86337c].

About Olds College
Olds College is the premier Canadian integrated learning and applied research community specializing in agriculture, horticulture, land and environmental management. Olds College first opened its doors in November of 1913, and now includes programming that covers Animal Sciences, Horticulture, Land & Water, Fashion, Business, Hospitality & Tourism, and Trades & Apprenticeships.

About the Beyond campaign
The multi-year $40M fundraising campaign, Beyond, will fund several infrastructure projects designed to take the Olds College campus and its students beyond tomorrow, beyond expectations and beyond the classroom.

SOURCE Olds College

For further information: For more information, or to book interviews: Lisa Rushka, APR, Momentum Communications, (403) 816-1038

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