The Living Laboratories Initiative (the Initiative) is a network of Living Labs across Canada, supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), where farmers, researchers, agricultural organizations and environmental organizations can work together on real working farms to develop innovative practices and approaches to address local agro-ecosystem challenges.

Through the Initiative researchers and farmers develop and test innovations in the field.  The aim is to develop practical technologies and practices that make sense for Canadian farmers to help them adjust to climate change, reduce water contamination, improve soil and water conservation, and maximize habitat capacity and biodiversity on agricultural landscapes. 

In 2019 the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) was chosen to lead the Living Lab - Ontario (LL-ON) project.  Under the leadership of the OSCIA, the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, Ontario Soil NetworkEssex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA)Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) and Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) are working together with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada on this project.  The Living Lab -Ontario project focuses the work of numerous scientists from both AAFC and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) on 6 farms in the Lake Erie basin.      

The research conducted in Ontario focuses on reducing soil and nutrient runoff from agricultural land into Lake Erie, improving water quality, conserving soil health, and increasing biodiversity on agricultural lands in Ontario.

Sharing Results

Growing Potatoes with Cover Crops webinar hosted by EFAO and OSCIA. 

Living Lab-Ontario farm cooperator, Ken Laing and Living Lab-Atlantic collaborator, Ryan Barrett from the PEI Potato Board discuss results of growing potatoes with cover crops.

For Ken, his trials involve planting organic potatoes into a standing cover crop of rye/hairy vetch, mowing the cover crop and letting the potatoes grow without any tillage for weeds or hilling.

Ryan discusses trials run with PEI potato growers that involve testing various fall-planted cover crops ahead of conventional potato production.

Learn about the details of these systems, including their successes, challenges, and next steps through short presentations about the trials followed by Q & A.

What did we learn in 2021?

The six farm cooperators in the LL-ON project shared their experience and results in five panel discussions. Farm collaborators were joined by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientists and other farm innovators and experts to share results and takeaways from the 2021 on-farm research season. 

  • Innovations in Small Grains: Hosted at the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.  Greg Vermeersch, Brett Israel, Dr. Eric Page and Joe Wecker discuss their experience with relay cropping in barley, double-cropping and ancient grains. Doing On-Farm Research: Jan. 21, 10 am, Ontario Soil Network Conference Andy Van Niekerk, Dr. Sarah Larsen, Dr. Ian Scott, and other LL-ON farmers & researchers discuss their on-farm research ... and help you plan your own trials!
  • Doing On-Farm Research: Hosted by the Ontario Soil Network.  Andy Van Niekerk, Dr. Sarah Larsen, Dr. Ian Scott, and other LL-ON farmers & researchers discuss their on-farm research ... and help you plan your own on-farm research trials. 
  • Grazing Cover Crops: Hosted by Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Mike Groot, Andy Van Niekerk, Dr. Lori Phillips, Steve Sickle and Christine O’Reilly discuss how to integrate grazing livestock into your crop rotation, and what it does for your soil and your bottom line.
  • Full time cover crops: Hosted by the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario.   Woody Van Arkel, Ken Laing, Dr. Xueming Yang and Anne Verhallen discuss perennial cover crop strips, planted green field crops and vegetables; taking cover crops to a whole new level.
  • Healthy Soil, Clean Water: Hosted by Essex Region Conservation Authority Henry Denotter, Dr. Katie Stammler and others discuss farming to reduce nutrient loss. This will include results of watershed and edge-of-field water quality monitoring from Living Lab-ON and ONFARM with Essex Region, Upper Thames and Lower Thames Conservation Authorities.

Innovations in small grains


Doing on-farm research


Grazing cover crops


Full-time cover crops


Healthy soil, clean water


Cooperator Profiles

Woody Van Arkel - Perennial ground cover


Greg Vermeersch - Double Cropping


Michael & Lindsay Groot - Grazing cover crops