Ontario, U of Guelph renew ag research partnership

University of Guelph president Dr. Franco Vaccarino (right) and Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal sign a new research partnership agreement, with Guelph-area MPP Liz Sandals. (John Greig photo)

Up to $713 million in agriculture research will be funded at the University of Guelph over the next 10 years through a renewal of the university’s agreement with the provincial ag ministry.

The new agreement has been updated to manage digital data and is aimed to provide a base from which to leverage more research funding from other levels of government and the private sector, said Malcolm Campbell, Guelph’s vice-president of research.

Why does it matter? Maintaining public sector primary agriculture research is challenging around the world. The OMAFRA/University of Guelph partnership solidifies long-term funding for research at Guelph long-term, which means more local research and the ability to attract higher-quality scientists.

“Scientific research is critical to developing innovations that benefit people, animals and the environment, from safer food to improved health to healthier ecosystems,” said Dr. Franco Vaccarino, University of Guelph’s president.

“Agri-food innovation also attracts investment and highly skilled talent, helping create jobs and strong communities. The OMAFRA/U of G partnership has helped position Ontario and Guelph as the epicentre of agricultural research and innovation in Canada.”

The new deal was announced Tuesday by university officials and Jeff Leal, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, at an event at the university’s agriculture laboratories.

“Ontario will be called on to meet the challenge of feeding the world. That’s why our partnerships are so important,” said Leal. “They will help Ontario to grow our capacity to grow safe, high-quality food.”

Leal also mentioned the need to continue to educate people to work in a growing agriculture sector. A recent University of Guelph study notes four jobs in agriculture for each graduate.

He tied the OMAFRA funding to equipping the next generation of researchers, innovators and policy making in agriculture.

OMAFRA and the University of Guelph have had a research partnership for decades. The previous partnership supported work such as:

  • Dr. Bonnie Mallard and her high immune response selection now available for dairy cattle through Semex;
  • a natural formula, hexanal, to prolong the shelf life of fresh produce;
  • smartphone apps that help to identify pests in crops; and
  • Gryphon’s LAAIR (Leading to the Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research), in which researchers pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts and business managers. Winners receive funding to develop their research ideas.

The new agreement, running 250 pages, provides clearer explanations than in the past and will help provide better digital information flow, Campbell said.

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

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