Loblaw, U of G Announce Chair in Sustainable Food Production

March 25, 2011 - News Release

A leader in building agricultural research and knowledge networks, Prof. Ralph Martin, has been appointed the Loblaw Companies Limited Chair in Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph following a year-long international search. Martin, a plant and animal sciences professor at Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC), will begin advancing sustainable food production education and practices this month.

“This is a very important and distinctive position, and far from a traditional academic chair,” said president Alastair Summerlee. “It was designed to be a portal for knowledge on the complex and diverse topic of sustainable food. U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) is ideally suited to host this initiative, given our history in agriculture, food and food sciences research.”

The chair — funded by a $3-million gift from Loblaw Companies Limited — will form the foundation of U of G research on strengthening food production systems. A Canadian first, this position will lead change in food production systems through education, research, practice and outreach within the context of the essential elements of sustainability, the environment, communities and the economy.

“Our goal is to establish a global centre of excellence, bringing the best ideas and minds together to make Canada a world leader in sustainable food production,” said Galen G. Weston, executive chairman, Loblaw Companies Limited. “We are excited by Ralph’s appointment as we continue to support partnerships like this, in order to develop long-term solutions to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for Canadians.”

Martin has been a professor at NSAC since 1990 and is director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada. Founded in 2001 and the only institution of its kind in the country, it is a leader in organic research and education. In 2010 he launched Canada’s Organic Science Cluster, the first federally funded program of its type. The program is part of the Canadian Agri-Science Clusters Initiative of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Growing Forward Policy Framework and is supported by industry partners. Martin was selected for this position based on his expertise in the discipline, his networking skills, and his ability to work with diverse scientists and scholars.

Rob Gordon, OAC dean, added: "We are enormously pleased to partner with Loblaw in this new initiative. It will provide benefits to consumers, to Canada’s food industry and to the environment that we all share. We welcome the opportunity to apply our expertise, influence and experience to develop new solutions for existing and emerging challenges.”

As the chair, Martin will guide the development of food and agriculture policy, with the end goal of improving the sustainability of agriculture and food production in Canada. He will lead a national program in sustainable local food production, organize roundtables on the topic and create an industry advisory group to guide novel curriculum development. He will also co-ordinate researchers in agriculture and food production, and lead public- and private-sector collaborations.

“I am honoured by this appointment,” Martin said. “I welcome the challenge of conversing with key players to develop and strengthen ties among the University of Guelph and other institutions, consumers, industry and other groups to advance sustainable food production education and practices.”

To date, Martin’s research has been focused on integrated plant production systems and applied environmental science. He has written numerous journal articles and book chapters, and has addressed conferences around the world. He earned a PhD in plant science from McGill University, and a master’s degree in biology and a bachelor of arts degree from Carleton University.

About Loblaw Companies Limited

Loblaw Companies Limited, a subsidiary of George Weston Limited, is Canada's largest food distributor and a leading provider of drugstore, general merchandise and financial products and services. Loblaw is one of the largest private-sector employers in Canada. With more than 1,000 corporate and franchised stores from coast to coast, Loblaw and its franchisees employ more than 136,000 full-time and part-time employees. Through its portfolio of store formats, Loblaw is committed to providing Canadians with a wide, growing and successful range of products and services to meet the everyday household demands of Canadian customers. Loblaw is known for the quality, innovation and value of its food offering. It offers Canada's strongest control (private) label program, including the unique President's Choice®, no name® and Joe Fresh Style® brands. In addition, the Company makes available to customers President's Choice Financial® services and offers the PC® points loyalty program.

About the University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is ranked as one of Canada's top comprehensive universities because of its commitment to student learning and innovative research. U of G is dedicated to cultivating the essentials for quality of life — water, food, environment, animal and human health, community, commerce, culture and learning. The University community also shares a profound sense of social responsibility, an obligation to address global issues and a concern for international development. The Ontario Agricultural College is one of seven colleges at U of G, and the largest and most comprehensive institution in Canada devoted to teaching, research and outreach in food, agriculture, rural communities and the environment. This gift and the chair position are part of the University of Guelph’s BetterPlanet Project campaign [www.thebetterplanetproject.ca]

For more information or a photo, please contact:
Julija Hunter
Vice-President, Public Relations
Loblaw Companies Limited
pr@loblaw.ca or 905-459-2500

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338, lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982, d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

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