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Top Canadian food universities to collaborate on CFREF food security and sustainability initiatives

From left: Maurice Moloney, Global Institute for Food Security Executive Director; Malcolm Campbell, University of Guelph Vice President (Research); Karen Chad, University of Saskatchewan Vice President (Research)

From left: Maurice Moloney, Global Institute for Food Security executive director; Malcolm Campbell, University of Guelph vice-president (research); Karen Chad, University of Saskatchewan vice-president (research)

The University of Guelph (U of G) and the University of Saskatchewan (USask) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last week at USask’s Plant Phenotyping & Imaging Research Centre symposium to collaborate on joint activities to advance global food security and food systems. Malcolm Campbell, U of G vice president (research) signed the MOU, along with Karen Chad, vice president (research) for USask.

The partnership builds on the two universities’ Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) programs: Food from Thought at U of G, and Designing Crops for Global Food Security at USask. The joint agreement marks the first apparent MOU between CFREF programs, and underscores the immense benefits to be gained through strong working relationships among institutions to solve major global challenges in food production.

“The contributions of these two universities to food research and food systems is formidable,” says Malcolm Campbell, vice president (research) at U of G. “With this memorandum of understanding and collaboration, we will both be even better placed to contribute to our ability to feed a growing global population.”

The government has invested more than $150 million in U of G and USask through CFREF to enhance food security and food systems for the planet. Leveraging their combined expertise, the two institutions will build on already internationally-renowned research on crop development techniques, data-intensive information systems and novel technologies, digital applications, and sustainable supply chains.

“Our strength in digital agriculture, data science, and agri-food, combined with the technical capacity of P2IRC, will drastically increase the capacity of Canadian plant research,” says Clarence Swanton, U of G professor (plant agriculture), referring to the state-of-the art CFREF-funded Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. “This is vital in a time when we know that we will need to produce more food from plant sources in a way that has minimal impact on the natural environment.”

Through the partnership, USask will benefit from U of G’s food processing research and novel agricultural technologies and tools. In turn, U of G will create synergies with USask’s phenotyping and plant breeding, as well as the research infrastructure at USask.

About the Programs

Canada First Research Excellence Fund

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund helps Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics compete with the best in the world for talent and partnership opportunities, to make breakthrough discoveries, and to excel globally in research areas that will create long-term economic advantages for Canada.

Food from Thought at the University of Guelph

Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet is a research program led by the University of Guelph, funded in part by a $76.6 million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The goal of the program is to sustainably intensify global food production by leveraging the considered power of leading-edge data science, agri-food research, and biodiversity science. Food from Thought will position Canada as a global leader in the development of innovative solutions that improve both the sustainability and productivity of food systems at global, landscape, and micro levels.

Food from Thought will create and implement next-generation information management systems, decision support tools, and digital applications that intelligently collect, analyze, and apply massive amounts of data from crops, livestock and the environment. This new digital agricultural research platform will provide solutions to identify food fraud, reduce food safety risks, refine pesticide and fertilizer use, monitor soil and crop health, predict and manage animal health, control pathogens, and track emerging infectious disease threats.

Designing Crops for Global Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan

P2IRC’s seven-year innovative research and training program, managed by the Global Institute for Food Security’s (GIFS) will transform crop breeding and provide innovative solutions to national and global food security. The program builds upon the GIFS’ focus on computational agriculture to enhance the U of S biosciences cluster – one of the largest clusters of food-related researchers in the world.

P2IRC will combine the sciences of plant bioinformatics and genomics with crop phenotyping (the identification of useful traits) using advanced image acquisition technologies, high-performance computing, and impactful socioeconomic analyses.

Technologies and expertise developed at P2IRC will elevate Canada’s position as a global powerhouse in agricultural research and lead to commercial spin-offs involving field and aerial sensors, satellite imaging, robotics, and big data analytics.