Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance

Photo of a handshake representing  partnership. Dairy cows in a field. Photo of a lab technician.

Ontario solutions. Global impact.

For over 125 years, the University of Guelph (U of G) and the Ontario government have worked together to support and help shape the future of the province's agri-food industry and rural communities.

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Agreement Vision

The overarching vision for the 2018 Agreement is to sustain the world renowned collaboration between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the U of G, under which there is continued growth and investment in the body of knowledge, data and innovation necessary to:

  1. achieve assurance in food safety;
  2. protect animal, plant and public health and the environment;
  3. grow Ontario's capacity to produce food; and
  4. support a globally and domestically competitive agri-food sector.

To accomplish this vision, 2018 Agreement programming supports the base intellectual capacity, infrastructure and networks that produce, synthesize, transfer and invest in world-class research, innovation, laboratory testing and veterinary capacity.

On April 1, 2018, OMAFRA and the U of G renewed this agreement with a commitment of ten years. This will result in an investment of up to $713M over the next decade.

Agreement Strategic Outcomes

The 2018 Agreement outlines the following strategic outcomes:

  1. Transparency and public confidence in the agri-food sector through the protection of public, animal and plant health, the environment, and Ontario's economy against:
    1. risks to food safety;
    2. impacts caused by extreme weather events and emerging threats;
    3. transmission of disease and pests; and
    4. risks to sector competitiveness and productivity.
  2. An effective research and innovation system to achieve assurance in food safety, to protect animal, plant and public health and the environment, to grow Ontario's capacity to produce food, and to support a globally and domestically competitive agri-food sector. The system:
    1. sustains and generates new, core capacity needed to undertake world class research and scientific, economic and data analysis;
    2. maximizes the use of research infrastructure in a manner that provides benefits to all of Ontario's regions;
    3. informs evidence-based public policy and drives public awareness and fact-based dialogue;
    4. supports the commercialization of new technologies; and
    5. fosters frequent and quality collaboration among the agri-food and rural research community and between the U of G, the agri-food sector and rural Ontario.
  3. Development of future skilled capacity to be ready for employment opportunities offered by the agri-food sector and rural Ontario, including highly qualified veterinary capacity in place to meet Ontario's needs.
  4. Growth of third-party investment in agri-food and rural research, innovation and development, and data focused initiatives.
  5. Increased sharing and access to data to facilitate new agri-food and rural research and data analytics to inform government decision-making.

Research Program

Agri-Food and Rural Research

Research is at the heart of a dynamic, agri-food innovation sector made up of thousands of farms, farm service providers, processors, agricultural technology and biotech companies and research facilities. The research program supports innovative technologies and products; from the PurPod100, the world's first compostable coffee pod, to High Immune Response technology, to identify and breed cows with better immunity to diseases. These innovations support our agri-food sector and rural communities and are the foundation for a globally and domestically competitive agri-food sector.

Research is focused on the following seven theme areas, adopted by OMAFRA's Minister on the recommendation of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario:

  • Production Systems (plants and animals)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Products and Value Chains
  • Food for Health
  • Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses
  • Agri-Food and Rural Policy
  • Emergency Management

Agri-Food and Rural Link

The Agri-Food and Rural Link (also known as the Knowledge Translation and Transfer Program) facilitates the successful mobilization of research knowledge generated as a result of the Agreement. This program drives knowledge into action by advancing the synthesis, exchange, application and dissemination of knowledge resulting from agri-food and rural research that is critical to grow Ontario's capacity to produce food.

Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Funding Program

The OMAFRA-U of G Agreement administers a KTT funding program to advance research in the field of KTT and to accelerate the transfer of research knowledge into use. The program aims to:

  • Advance the synthesis, dissemination and exchange of research knowledge about agriculture, food and rural sectors to relevant knowledge-users.
  • Expand networking and collaboration among the U of G's research community, partners, and stakeholders, including OMAFRA.
  • Expand knowledge and best practices for successful translation, transfer and implementation of research knowledge.

Undergraduate Student Experiential Learning

The Undergraduate Student Experiential Learning (USEL) program supports students in the development of leadership skills, enhanced written and verbal communication skills, and project planning and management to better equip them to engage in effective agri-food knowledge mobilization.

Highly Qualified Personnel

The Highly Qualified Personnel Program provides scholarships for Masters and Doctoral students working in program areas that relate to OMAFRA research themes and priorities. HQP students will also complete a work semester with a government, industry or community partner that connects well with the student's research interests and future career goals.

Commercialization Programs

Gryphon's Leading to Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research (LAAIR) program was launched in February 2014, at the U of G to help identify commercialization opportunities associated with innovative technologies. The program helps to address gaps and overcome barriers to the application and commercialization of technologies in the Ontario agri-food and rural sectors.

In addition, the Agreement promotes networks and collaborations with industry to accelerate commercialization and works to protect intellectual property to generate new revenue that can be reinvested in research and innovation.

Research Stations and Infrastructure

Research stations and infrastructure are an important platform for conducting agri-food research. The OMAFRA - University of Guelph Agreement provides funds for the maintenance, operation and management of 15 research stations and agricultural campuses located across Ontario.

These research facilities are owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and operated and managed by the U of G and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC).

An ARIO-led reinvestment strategy is currently being implemented to revitalize research infrastructure to support demand-driven research.

Laboratory Programs

Animal Health Lab

The Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) provides a full-service, fully accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratory that supports provincial animal disease diagnosis and surveillance. Scientists and technologists at the AHL link their expertise with University of Guelph personnel to provide a single source of laboratory service in animal health and surveillance to mitigate threats to animal health and welfare that can have a significant impact on Ontario.

In addition to animal testing programs, the Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN) provides an enhanced, collaborative surveillance system to communicate and share information amongst commodity-specific networks and to the broader public, to monitor baseline animal health and to flag potential irregularities to OMAFRA and its partners with the objective of preventing animal disease and informing Ontario's disease mitigation strategy.

Agriculture and Food Lab

The Agriculture and Food Laboratory (AFL) supports the scientific, diagnostic and analytical foundation necessary to respond to emergency situations impacting public health and the provision of high quality and timely data that facilitates decision-making for OMAFRA's food safety testing programs: Dairy Food Safety, Foods of Plant Origin, Meat Inspection, Fish Inspection, Plant Pest Diagnostics, and Great Lakes Tributary Water and Soil Mapping. With strong alliances in industry, government and academic sectors, the AFL provides excellence in food quality and safety testing in Ontario and across Canada.

Veterinary Capacity Program

The Veterinary Capacity Program (previously VCEP) will support the development of veterinary capacity in areas of OMAFRA and/or provincial interest (e.g., farmed animal health, veterinary public health). OMAFRA funding will be used to support the development of veterinary capacity as well as experiential learning and advanced clinical training specifically in support of the agri-food sector, veterinary public health and rural economic development.

Additional Links

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For more information:
E-mail: research.omafra@ontario.ca