Two of Canada’s leading agri-food research universities — the University of Guelph and University of the Fraser Valley – have launched a new partnership aimed at advancing new pathways for sustainable innovation within Canada’s $140-billion food and agriculture industry.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) names long-time collaborators Dr Evan Fraser, director of Arrell Food Institute (AFI) at U of G, and Dr. Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute (FAI) at the University of the Fraser Valley as co-leaders of the partnership.
In the face of ever-growing climate concerns, yearly food waste in Canada contributing up to 9.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, nearly 1 in 5 Canadians being food insecure and the impending shortage of skilled agricultural workers, decision makers are recognizing the key role local and global food systems can play in generating lasting solutions.
The solutions needed are too big for any one group to find alone, so this collegial approach will bring together expertise from across the food system and beyond.
Leadership in sustainable agri-food approaches
This co-operation opens up new avenues for collaboration, including access to a rich cross-section of agri-food expertise on the West Coast and shared resources to help propel scientific research to practical food system solutions across Canada.
“One aspect of this partnership that I am so excited about is the potential to develop a national training platform to inspire and equip the next generation of leaders to help propel Canada on the global stage in terms of being the world leader in the production of safe, healthy and sustainable food,“ said Dr. Fraser.
“This MOU reflects hopeful and fruitful future collaborations that will forge new opportunities to make strides toward solving Canada’s food sustainability challenge.”
Solutions will highlight Canada’s leadership in sustainable agri-food approaches while increasing competitiveness, profitability and national food and nutrition security. AFI and FAI will work together to better understand food system topics and be part of the conversation toward a more sustainable future of food.
“The Food and Agriculture Institute is excited to join forces with AFI to support the ambitious goal of supporting the development of Canada’s agricultural technology ecosystem,” said Dr. Newman. “Food security is a critical element of national security, and home-grown technology is a keystone.”
An ongoing collaboration between AFI and FAI, Feeding the Future with Canadian Technology, navigates the nuanced steps toward building a pan-Canadian agricultural technology strategy by consulting with Canadians across the agri-food value chain.
Developing Canada’s agricultural technology ecosystem
Peter Dhillon, chairman of the board, Ocean Spray, and CEO of the Richberry Group, lends his food industry insights to this project in his role as co-chair, and recognizes the importance of continued collaboration.
“Agricultural technology is essential to Canada’s food security and we are at a critical point where we must secure and increase the global food supply. Close collaboration between applied university research and industry is essential to supercharge the innovation ecosystem,” said Dhillon.
First priorities of the new agreement will include the establishment of accelerator workshops, a national network of agricultural technology players, and funding research and development to scale new innovations into the marketplace.
An early supporter of the proposed activities is the Abbotsford Tech District, an accelerator for agricultural technology and food security based in Abbotsford, B.C.
“Abbotsford Tech District is excited by this national initiative, proud to be early financial supporters, and confident the Guelph Region and Fraser Valley Region have key roles to play in our nation’s food innovation and food security,” said Gavin Dew, Chief Strategy Officer, Abbotsford Tech District.
The partnership will foster collaborative new pathways to create made-in-Canada agriculture and food innovations that bring solution-oriented technologies to the forefront and into mainstream market adoption.
Collaboration will be possible in the areas of knowledge-sharing, financing proposal development, education and training programs, technology assessment, expanding access to commercialization services, and on-farm and in-lab testing and trials.
“I see this MOU as a timely and exciting alignment between two vital nodes of expertise on agriculture and the future of food,” said Dr. Rene van Acker, interim vice-president (research) at U of G. “From training, to applied research, and work on policy, this is the moment to take a national approach that will position Canada to be a global agri-food powerhouse.”
“In today’s world, developing the agricultural technology ecosystem requires national cooperation. Partnerships such as these can benefit local farmers and agribusinesses locally and right across the country,” said Garry Fehr, associate vice president research at the University of the Fraser Valley.
About Arrell Food Institute
Arrell Food Institute brings people together to conduct research, train the next generation of food leaders and shape social, industrial, and governmental decisions, always ensuring food is the central priority.
About Food and Agriculture Institute
The Food and Agriculture Institute (FAI) at the University of the Fraser Valley is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on issues, challenges, and sustainability solutions related to food and farm systems.