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The establishment of agri-food engineering in Quebec took place at Macdonald College of McGill University in 1910 when a Manual Training Program was founded. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Manual Training in 1914, and more simply the Agricultural Engineering Department in 1918. The years passed and the Agricultural Engineering program was finally created in 1946, but as an option in the B.Sc. (Agriculture) degree. The program lasted four years without leading to the engineer title provided by the “Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec” (OIQ) because a fifth year was required. According to Jacques Choinière, founder of the Agri-Food Engineering Department at Université Laval, no graduate student pursued this route. To be engineer, students had to continue their professional development outside of Quebec.

In this context, in 1960, the "Commission sur le génie rural" of the "Corporation professionnelle des agronomes du Québec" recommend the creation of full Agricultural Engineering programs leading to the engineer title as awarded by OIQ. The "Comité d’étude sur l’enseignement agricole et agronomique dans la province de Québec" then presented the role of an engineer in a rural area and the key elements to be inserted in an agricultural engineering program. Consequently, Agricultural Engineering degree appeared at Université Laval in 1962 and at Macdonald campus of McGill University in 1966.

At the same time, the "Commission royale d’enquête sur l’agriculture au Québec" discussed the Quebec’s agricultural techniques in order to define means that would improve farmers’ conditions and production. One of the main recommendations was to create a grant and technical support program for drainage works on agricultural fields. Therefore, the first large-scale projects in agricultural engineering consist in designing drainage plans. Gradually, agricultural engineers are more and more involved in areas where civil engineers worked during the 1950’s.

This 1960’s period was also marked by several advances in agriculture besides water management. As electricity became much more available in rural regions, the development of powerful tractors, machinery, electronic control of farm buildings environment and crop drying occurred. Later, the rise of environmental and social concerns about agricultural practices extended the scope of work of the agricultural engineer.

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Both programs at Laval and McGill further evolved to adequately address the Quebec’s agricultural needs. In the mid-1990’s, the name of the Department at McGill University was officially changed to Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Université Laval splitted the Agricultural Engineering program to form two new degrees: Agri-Environment Engineering and Food Engineering. A similar reorganization happened at Macdonald campus in 2004 whereas the new undergraduate program was named Bioresource Engineering and included options of specialization in Food and Bioprocesses, Agricultural, Soil and Water Resources, and Bio-Environmental Engineering. This new program also featured more choice of science and engineering complementary courses than the former degree.

 

Sources:
Robert Lagacé, « Du monde rural à l’industrie », Plan, mars 2013, p. 28.
Edward McKyes, « History of the McGill Department of Bioresource Engineering, 1910-2005 », Communication personnelle, 25 octobre 2013.