Supporting food security in Northern Ontario First Nations, making biocomposite parts for electric vehicles and using robotics for weeding vegetable crops are among nearly 50 University of Guelph agri-food research projects to receive over $8 million in new funding from the Ontario government.  

Announced today, the funding is intended to develop U of G innovations that support industry and make a difference to Ontario farmers and consumers. 

For 2023, 47 research projects that enhance plant health and protection, protect animal health and welfare, drive economic development and promote environmental sustainability will be funded through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, the unique collaboration between the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). 

The projects involve researchers in multiple colleges across campus including the College of Biological Science, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the Ontario Agricultural College, and the Ontario Veterinary College.  

Ontario-led research helping farmers, processors, agri-food businesses

“Through the power of partnership, the University of Guelph drives innovation and brings farm-tested research to the table, in Ontario and globally,” said U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates. “OMAFRA’s investment in world-class U of G research is vital to advancing a sustainable, competitive agri-food sector that makes a difference to the environment, to businesses, to producers, to communities and to the health of people, animals and planet.” 

Yates said U of G and OMAFRA share a strong dedication to agri-food innovation, working together to generate new knowledge and supporting the agri-food sector for more than a century through U of G’s founding colleges and institutions.  

“Ontario-led research is helping our farmers, processors and agri-food businesses be more competitive on a global scale,” said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson. “Through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance Tier 1 projects, our government is helping to develop the technologies and innovations needed to advance our agriculture and food industry.”  

Among the funded research projects, a study led by Dr. Silvia Sarapura, professor in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development within the Ontario Agricultural College will receive $1 million. The project, called Braiding Food Systems in Northern Ontario for Food Sovereignty, Security and Climate Adaptation, will use a community-based approach to strengthen food security and help address climate change impacts in several Northern Ontario First Nations by exploring community knowledge and practices related to seed systems and varieties. 

Additional projects selected for funding include the following: 

  1. Agricultural robotics for vegetable production and weed management
    Dr. Mary Ruth MacDonald, Department of Plant Agriculture 
  2. Evaluation of management practices for SCN [soybean cyst nematode] in Ontario to support the SCN Coalition
    Dr. Mehrzad (Milad) Eskandari, Department of Plant Agriculture, Ridgetown Campus 
  3. Understanding feather pecking in laying hens: The gut-microbiome-brain connection 
    Dr. Alexandra Harlander, Department of Animal Biosciences 
  4. Targeted diversification in the Ontario hop value chain for application in the brewing industry
    Dr. George van der Merwe, Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology  
  5. Ontario agro-residues and automotive paint waste hybrid in engineered light-weight biocomposites for electric vehicle parts
    Dr. Manjusri Misra, School of Engineering

The Alliance brings together academia, government and industry to support Ontario’s $47-billion agri-food sector with cutting-edge research and innovation, training and laboratory services. The Alliance increases Ontario’s GDP by $1.4 billion a year and has an annual economic impact of about $120 million.