Director, Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph
Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s farm in Niagara. He quickly learned, however, that his grandmother’s success as a stockbroker was paying more of his wages than the money brought in by the u-pick strawberries and sweet corn. It was perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that he decided it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living selling fruits and vegetables. He passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school.
Today, Evan works with large multi-disciplinary teams on developing solutions to help feed the world’s growing population while not destroying the ecosystems on which we depend for life.
A passionate communicator, Evan has written for the Globe and Mail, the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was published by Simon and Schuster and shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award. He has also co-produced/co-hosted 3 1-hour radio documentaries for CBC’s premier documentary show Ideas on the future of food.
As a researcher, Evan is a co-author on over 100 academic papers and book chapters, played a leadership role in teams that have raised over $100M in research funding, and mentored close to 50 graduate students.
Between 2006-18 he co-convened an ad hoc working group made up of producer groups, the food industry, philanthropy and civil society to propose that the Federal Government of Canada should create a National Food Policy Advisory Council. The creation of this council was announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in the summer of 2019.
Evan’s web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 500,000 times, he has self-published a graphic novel called #FoodCrisis about a fictitious food crisis that hits North America in the 2020s. Evan has also created a card game about global food security that won a gold medal at the International “Serious Play” conference. The videos, the graphic novel and the card game have been pulled together in a series of teacher-friendly high school lesson plans that are used in classrooms around the world.
He is a full professor of Geography at the University of Guelph and helps lead the Food from Thought initiative, which is a $76.6 million research program based at the University of Guelph that explores how to use big data to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint.
Today, Evan is the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, which was established by a $20 million-dollar gift from the Arrell Family Foundation. In this capacity, he co-chairs the Arrell Food Summit, and manages the Arrell Food Scholarship program as well as the Arrell Food Innovation Awards that deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to groups that have made tremendous impacts on global food systems.