Ontario, U of G, and Ag Research Institute sign new five-year, $343 million agreement

Broiler birds at 2.5 weeks old, not fully feathered. Supplied by Maple Leaf Foods. 2020.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has committed $343 million over five years to continue the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration of the University of Guelph, OMAFRA, and the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO).

The Alliance brings together academia, government, and industry to support Ontario’s agri-food sector through research and innovation, training, and laboratory services.

“The University of Guelph applauds the Government of Ontario for its continued support and strengthening of Ontario’s agri-food sector, bringing industry, government and university together to form a unique, world-class partnership,” says University president Dr. Charlotte Yates. “Using our expertise, the University leverages this government investment to protect plant and animal health, guard against new disease and environmental challenges, safeguard Ontario’s food supply and support leading agri-food innovation.”

Examples of research and innovation stemming from the Alliance include:

  • Research that helps dairy producers lower their carbon footprint while supporting their bottom line: OMAFRA’s investment in research centres and environmental stewardship research through the Alliance has helped producers implement science-based best management practices to reduce their carbon footprint, improve sustainability and support farm profitability. (U of G researcher: Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle)
  • U of G-bred soybean varieties accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the food-grade soybeans grown in Ontario and shipped around the world: The publicly funded soybean breeding program at U of G released more than 280 new varieties since 1970. (Dr. Istvan Rajcan and Dr. Milad Eskandari)
  • The Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) providing avian influenza testing services for poultry producers: As part of Ontario’s enhanced surveillance strategy, AHL has worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the detection and surveillance of avian influenza and works with OMAFRA to increase surveillance capacity and capabilities in Ontario to limit further spread in the province. In 2015, the AHL was instrumental in helping contain an outbreak of H5N2 avian influenza in Ontario, with minimal disruption to the province’s poultry industry.
  • The development of the In the Know mental health literacy training program: The program is now delivered by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and is licensed in five provinces across Canada. (Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton)

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