Food From Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet
Food From Thought is a $76.7 million research program at the University of Guelph. The program, which began in 2016, is funded by the Canada’s First Research Excellence Fund for 7 years.
The Food From Thought program intends to exponentially increase our ability to leverage big data for the benefit of food production and biodiversity at three scales of research and innovation at the global, landscape and microscale.
The program will integrate and strengthen the University’s data management and analysis capabilities across our facilities and our partners, and better support and incubate faculty and student innovations.
Our vision is to transform our understanding of the ecosystems we depend on for food, at scales that range from planetary to microcosmic. At the same time, we want to increase the capacity, sustainability and safety of food production systems without undermining environmental health, ecosystem services or livestock health and welfare.
Food From Thought has three distinct missions:
- Transforming agriculture’s impact on biodiversity at the global scale
- Sustainably intensifying food production at the landscape scale
- Enhancing food safety and livestock health at the microscale
Food from Thought will use the power of big data to support research and innovations at each of these three scales to increase our ability to find solutions to complex issues.
Global Scale Mission
Transforming agriculture’s impact on biodiversity
The first mission is to develop a system for collecting, analyzing, curating and disseminating genetic information about the ecosystems that produce our food. At the heart of this mission is the International Barcode of Life (iBOL), which is hosted by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph. Using iBOL, Food From Thought intends to automate more processes needed to identify and discover species, and survey food-producing ecosystems worldwide to discover how those systems function and can be managed.
Landscape Scale Mission
Sustainably intensifying production
The second mission is to tackle one of the 21st centuries biggest challenges: to create systems that meet the rising demand for food while sustaining a healthy planet. Researchers will conduct experiments allowing us to better understand the complex relationships between farm management, animal and crop genetics, and ecosystem services. Data will be amassed and analyzed through work with the university’s partners and Canada’s largest network of agri-food research stations. This work will give the university the ability to address other scientific goals and their applications. These include creating decision support systems for crop production to protect biodiversity, tools to match farm animal genetics with management practices, and computer simulation models to understand agricultural and wild ecosystem interactions.
Enhancing food and livestock health
The third mission will use big data analytics to study ecosystems at the microcosmic scale to promote food safety, prevent zoonotic disease and enhance the health of livestock. Using the platforms of the first mission with the expertise of national animal and human health laboratories, Food From Thought will focus on preventing disease risks to humans, animals and their environments. Big data analytics will assist researchers in better understanding patterns of foodborne illness outbreaks, model host-pathogen relationships to prevent zoonotic diseases, and develop early diagnosis methods for animal diseases.
Meet the Scientific Leadership Team
Kari E. Dunfield
Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-ecosystems
Tier I Canada Research Chair, Director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and Officer of the Order of Canada
Gryphon's LAAIR Funding Program
The Gryphon’s LAAIR Program provides Innovation Grants to academic innovators at the University of Guelph attempting to increase private sector commercialization of new technologies for the agri-food sector. These Innovation Grants provide targeted financial support to researchers to reduce existing barriers that are preventing industry from adopting and commercializing these innovative technologies. Grants are used to turn new technologies into innovations through product development, optimization, market analysis, business model design, value proposition enhancement, new venture creation, and customer discovery.
For more information visit the OMAFRA-UofG website
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Research funding for Food From Thought is provided by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.