University of Guelph gets $77 million from feds for sustainable food research

The federal government has made a massive commitment to sustainable food, as it is investing nearly $77 million to support an innovative research program at the University of Guelph.

The program is called Food From Thought. The research will focus on information systems, big data and how digital tools can be used to produce more food with fewer inputs.

“This will position Canada as a leader in sustainable food production,” said university president Franco Vaccarino in a statement. “Our faculty, staff and students will have opportunities to participate in innovative discovery and to play a role in tackling one of the world’s greatest challenges: how to sustainably feed our growing population.”

The $76.6 million in funding is the largest federal investment in Guelph University’s history.

“We are Canada’s food university, with a 150-year legacy in agri-food and a reputation for innovation and commitment,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research) and a plant scientist in the molecular and cellular biology. “We also have the capacity, with world-class researchers and facilities, and strong partnerships with government and industry.”

IBM is a partner in the project.

“IBM shares the scientific vision of Food From Thought: ensuring that we sustainably, resiliently and safely increase production,” said Sanjeev Gill, research executive at IBM Canada.

Scientists participating in Food from Thought will tackle a number of sustainability issues within agriculture, such as:

•    Using DNA barcoding technology to identify food fraud, food-borne ailments and invasive pests

•    Using big data on to reduce pesticide use, monitor watershed health and identify crops suited for climate change

Funding for Food from Thought is coming from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), a federal government program that helps Canadian universities become world-leading institutions.

On September 6 the federal government announced $900 million in investments in Canadian universities, as part of the CFREF fund.

Information about the 13 funded initiatives is available at www.cfref-apogee.gc.ca.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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