The Government of Ontario is investing $7.25 million in University of Guelph research to help advance a competitive and sustainable agri-food sector in Ontario and around the world.

The 50 projects funded through the Ontario Agri-Food innovation Alliance—a collaboration between the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)—focus on a range of topics, from new packaging to lengthen the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables to supplements that improve cattle gut health and performance to research that looks at climate change, mental health and gender.

“As Canada’s Food University, the University of Guelph is committed to working with farmers, business leaders and government partners to advance a sustainable and competitive agri-food sector, at home in Ontario and around the world,” said president Dr. Charlotte Yates.

“OMAFRA’s investment in U of G’s world-class research faculty will deliver innovative solutions that improve life on farms, in small businesses and along the links of the agri-food value chain.” 

Helping Ontario’s agri-food sector grow and innovate

The Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance supports the people, places and programs that deliver Ontario agri-food solutions with global impact.

“Some of the most advanced agri-food research in the world is happening right here in Ontario, and our government is proud to support made-in-Ontario solutions that will keep rural communities strong, make our food safer and strengthen our food supply system during the economic recovery period,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

“Through our partnership with the University of Guelph, we are helping Ontario’s agri-food sector grow and innovate so that farmers can remain competitive on a global scale and Ontario can continue to be a leader in agri-food.”

Projects will take place in labs and fields across Ontario. Many of the projects will take place at Ontario’s agri-food research centres, a network of 14 sites across the province that provide a state-of-the-art platform for research and innovation.

“The breadth and diversity of projects supported through the Alliance demonstrate the extensive expertise and commitment of the U of G research community to work with partners across the agri-food sector to deliver impactful innovations for the people of Ontario,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

The projects focus on four research categories: environmental stewardship and food safety; economic and rural development; animal health and welfare; and plant health and protection. Projects will support the work of 110 U of G researchers and 102 collaborators from outside the University as well as the development of 194 highly qualified personnel.

The projects include the following:

Development of novel controlled gas-permeable membranes for enhanced modified atmosphere packaging of fresh produce

Looking to improve shelf life of packaged fresh produce, a food science professor Dr. Loong-Tak Lim in the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), will develop a novel enhanced modified atmosphere packaging system to inhibit bacteria growth. The system will benefit producers, packaging converters and consumers.

Monitoring and management of clubroot on canola and Brassica vegetables in Ontario

Clubroot threatens canola production because the disease-causing organism can survive in soils for long periods and adapt to overcome resistant plant varieties within a few years. Dr. Mary Ruth McDonald, a professor in OAC’s Department of Plant Agriculture, will track the spread of resistant clubroot variants in canola and vegetables. This research will help in identifying disease variants and predicting infection severity.

Impact of dietary selenium on ovine colostrum and postnatal health

About half of pre-weaning lambs die within 10 days of birth, and nutrient deficiency can limit lamb growth and survival. Colostrum provides early nutrients and immunity to newborns, but too little and poor-quality colostrum can promote sickness and death from disease-causing microorganisms. Dr. Niel Karrow, a professor in OAC’s Department of Animal Biosciences, will characterize colostrum genes, metabolites, fatty acids and immune-related proteins, as well as the lamb gut microbiome. He aims to improve postnatal lamb health and growth, benefiting Canadian sheep producers.

Climate change, mental health and gender in Canadian agriculture

Climate change causes varying mental health impacts on farmers. Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, a professor in the Department of Population Medicine within the Ontario Veterinary College, will use participatory action research and gender-based analysis to understand those impacts, learn how some farmers remain resilient, and investigate coping and adaptation supports. This project will inform resilient approaches, policies and programs to mitigate the effects of climate change on Ontario agriculture.

To learn about other projects funded by OMAFRA, see the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance Funded Research Projects.