What are you looking for

Net-Zero Food Systems Challenge

An innovative educational program brought to you by Arrell Food Institute, the Ontario Agricultural College, and Loblaw Companies Limited

The Net-Zero Food Systems Challenge is an experiential learning program that brings together graduate students from across Canada to develop solutions for a net-zero food system. The purpose of the program is to develop the skills of emerging food leaders who are interested in sustainable practices and how to build these into a food system that is net-zero. The Net-Zero Food Systems Challenge is run by Arrell Food Institute and the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph. It is supported financially by Loblaw Companies Limited.

Program Overview

Graduate students from across Canada alongside thought leaders and industry decision-makers collaboratively developed solutions for a sustainable agriculture and food system. The participants, divided into two teams, were tasked with specific challenges. Team one focused on promoting the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices among farmers. The second team delved into researching best practices to encourage consumer uptake of climate-responsible products. Over the course of six months, students conducted independent research, synthesized academic and industry reports, and compared sustainability practices and commitments of food retailers in Canada and internationally. 

The Role of Retailers

Report Findings

Retailers can play a pivotal role in minimizing the environmental footprint of products on their shelves by championing climate-smart practices both upstream (with farmers) and downstream (with consumers). The graduate student researchers developed reports which detail their findings and identify key opportunities for Canadian food retailers to enhance sustainability within the agri-food system.

Food retailers are recommended to support farmers by encouraging climate-smart practices on farms, improve knowledge sharing networks among producers and support initiatives and incentives for sustainable production.

Consumer adoption can be supported by retailers by driving consumer awareness, using transparent and clear labelling systems for climate-smart products and using third-party verifiers.

Read the reports below.

Farmer Adoption

Supporting farmers in the adoption of climate-smart farming

Increasing adoption of agricultural best management practices is a key opportunity to enhance carbon sequestration. By increasing the adoption and use of climate-smart farming practices, food retailers can tap into the potential of our agricultural soil to act as a carbon sink. Farmers need support through the different stages of the adoption of climate-smart farming. Supporting, recognizing and financially rewarding farmers for their efforts in reducing emissions and sequestering carbon is a big step in ensuring the sustainability of adopted practices and achieving net-zero food systems in Canada.

Climate-Smart Farming Adoption Report
Climate-Smart Farming Adoption Report

Consumer Adoption

Encouraging Consumer Adoption of Climate-Responsible Products

Consumers are pivotal players in the paradigm shift towards a more sustainable food system, but their willingness to engage depends on a clear understanding of the intricate concepts surrounding sustainability. By empowering consumers with knowledge and fostering informed choices, food retailers are in a unique position to co-create a sustainable future. Food retailers can do this by taking advantage of third-party partnerships for standardized measurement metric, embracing transparent eco-labelling, and storytelling to encourage consumer awareness of climate-responsible products.

Consumer Adoption of Climate-Responsible Products Report
Consumer Adoption of Climate-Responsible Products Report

Sustainable food systems for our future

The future of food depends on a resilient food system that can feed a growing population while protecting the health of the planet. The Net-Zero Food Systems Challenge is one of the projects that Arrell Food Institute is leading or a partner on that is focused on a more sustainable future.

Learn more
Learn more