May 29, 2024

How UCalgary’s Simpson Centre is connecting funding, research, and policy to ensure Canadian agricultural sustainability

MITACS and Canadian agriculture sector fund the future of agri-food research
A farm

The University of Calgary has embarked on a unique project, thanks to significant funding from MITACS, a national research organization, and the financial backing of 12 agricultural industry groups. The aim: To map the complicated landscape of agri-food research funding programs. 

The project is led by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and the Deans Council - Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Medicine. The goal is to see how industry funding lines up with the crucial areas of focus outlined in the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (SAS) and The Guelph Statement. These documents, issued by Agriculture and Agrifood Canada in 2021, highlight the sector's key priorities: climate change, environmental protection, sector growth, and resiliency.

A headshot of a man in a suit

Guillaume Lhermie

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Guillaume Lhermie, DVM, PhD, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural policy at the School of Public Policy points out, “Little is known about whether the diverse sources of funding from the public and private sectors converge and drive sustainable growth in this sector.”

The Simpson Centre, a key player in this endeavour, is tasked with leading the project. It will quantify the real-world benefits of public and private investments in agri-food research. The team will also compare Canada's competitiveness and innovation in the agri-food sector with select Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. The project involves research collaborators from the University of Guelph and University of Manitoba, with data support from agriculture and veterinary medicine faculties across Canada.

A woman stands next to an agriculture banner

Sabrina Gulab

Courtesy Sabrina Gulab

As Sabrina Gulab, economist and research lead at the School of Public Policy explains, “The Canadian agri-food sector is under significant pressure to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, yet the demand for high-quality products remains undiminished. 

“Innovative research and technology adoption are the keys to addressing these challenges.  We pre-identified two potential caveats in the funding ecosystem, namely a risk of sugarcoating, and a risk of fundings targeting opposite goals.”

Over the next nine months, Simpson Centre researchers will identify major funding institutions and agri-food research projects. They will evaluate how research aligns with government priorities, and review literature to understand the competitive advantages of select OECD agri-food sectors. 

The project will result in a database of topics, sources, and funding expenditures. An empirical analysis of funding efficiency, a report on the competitive advantages of select OECD countries, and a policy brief will also be produced. These insights will provide research backed recommendations for a sustainable Canadian agri-food system.

By bridging the gap between diverse funding sources, research, and public policy, we hope to 'cultivate' a more sustainable future for Canada's agri-food sector.

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