Collaboration can lead to innovation

Innovation is a competitive advantage for Canadian farmers. It is through ongoing innovation that Canadian wheat exports will compete with the likes of the Black Sea regions. In the period of 2015-18, Canada has consistently been in the top 10 wheat-producing countries in the world and within the top five wheat-exporting countries.

Focusing on innovations by increasing wheat yield while maintaining our country’s reliability in yield, sustainability, food safety and quality will help advance Canada’s position in a competitive global wheat market.

Cereals Canada has been working to improve Canada’s innovation in wheat by co-ordinating the National Wheat Research task group alongside Agriculture Canada.

The Task Group is a collaboration from across the country that includes public and private funders of research, public and private researchers, farmers, exporters and processors.

The goal of the task group is to facilitate investment in innovation in wheat to help enable the industry to respond to changing producer and consumer demands.

I’m still buzzing with excitement from the latest task group meeting at the engagement of the Canadian wheat value chain, which included researchers, producers, grain handlers, exporters and end-use customers.

This group came together several times throughout the past year to update the first National Wheat Research Priorities document, which was originally published in 2017.

The document represented the first time that the Canadian wheat value chain came together to align on national wheat research priorities.

The results will be published this summer in the updated National Wheat Research Priorities document.

The recent updates to the national research objectives include re-prioritizing goals and deliverables, as well as establishing key performance indicators and other metrics to measure the success of investments in research and innovation in Canadian wheat development and production.

The contribution partnership is not limited to the publication of a report. The work developing consensus positions on objectives and measurements has already resulted in better communication of market demands and farmers’ priorities.

It is through this collaboration on where research (and therefore investments) should be focused that researchers and developers can then collaborate to deliver solutions to enable producers to grow more wheat on less land while using fewer crop inputs.

Also, by having such a diverse group involved in this prioritization process, we gain different perspectives to position Canada as a leader in wheat production, exports and innovation. This is particularly important during a time of intense competition and increased trade protectionism.

The creation of a National Wheat Research database has helped to better evaluate wheat research investments from 2016 to present.

Through an analysis of the research projects, most wheat research is aimed at improving yield, yield reliability and sustainability. A small proportion of projects have food safety or quality as a main focus.

Projects within the three main themes have a primary focus on agronomy, variety development and/or foundational/discovery.

The database can also provide consolidated information on funding commitments by research theme and category so that the value chain is able to evaluate whether research investments are in line with national research priorities.

The sum is greater than its parts and this collaboration will produce a result better than what individuals could have delivered on their own.

We have a lot to be proud of with Canadian wheat and this is another feather in our caps.

Victoria Linden is director of research at Cereals Canada.

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