Priority-Driven Programs Support World-Class Research and Training

The Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance is committed to improving life by supporting research related to food, water, human and animal health, the environment and communities. Our goal is to help build strong rural communities and a prosperous, safe, environmentally-sustainable agri-food sector in Ontario – now and for the future.

Our funding programs leverage the U of G’s critical mass of faculty, technical staff and graduate students to deliver high-quality research and training opportunities focused on OMAFRA priorities.

Research themes and priorities

The Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance supports the rural and agri-food sectors in Ontario by funding research based on an inclusive, multi-leveled priority-setting process involving the OMAFRA Research Advisory Network (ORAN). 

ORAN is a network of advisory bodies that provide long-term strategic guidance for research program development and help identify short-term and emerging research priorities.

The Alliance funds research programs in seven theme areas. OMAFRA sets priorities for each theme annually, supported by recommendations from expert panels. All funding programs are designed to support the research and training needs of the agri-food sector. To learn more, review the 2018 - 2019 Consolidated Research Priorities or select a theme below.

Ontario's agri-food sector is a significant contributor to regional economies and to the province. A key policy concern for OMAFRA is how to facilitate sustainable development and long-term success of this sector while ensuring that public interest is served. Similarly, understanding the growth and sustainability of regional and rural economies, including being able to measure their performance, is important to achieving the ministry's rural mandate.

The Bioeconomy - Industrial Uses theme centres on the use of agriculturally-derived biomass to produce bioproducts. The bioproducts may be one of three types: biomaterials, biochemicals and bioenergy.

Research priorities within the Bioeconomy - Industrial Uses theme cover four areas of inquiry related to the production of bioproducts:

  • Feedstock-related products
  • Processing technologies research
  • Bioproduct development research
  • Policy research

The Emergency Management [EM] research theme focuses on emerging, re-emerging or endemic pathogens and pests in livestock and crops that may require an immediate and comprehensive response for containment that cannot be handled with typical resources.

The theme is rooted in a commitment to “One Health”, an integrative research approach that takes place at the intersection between livestock, ecosystem and human health.

The Emergency Management research theme emphasizes evaluating and mitigating the impact of emergencies on Ontario’s agricultural sector and public health through the core components of emergency management: prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

The Environmental Sustainability research theme focuses on maintaining the ability of natural resources (soil, air, water and biodiversity) to support and strengthen agriculture, food and bioproduct sectors, and rural communities. Research conducted in this theme area will evaluate environmental, economic, and/or social perspectives.

The theme seeks to support environmental stewardship through research and the development and verification of best management practices. Research goals include:

  • Understanding the potential risks and benefits of industry to soil, water, air and biodiversity
  • Providing science to develop credible, evidence-based government policies, programs and initiatives
  • Assessing the effect of environmental policies on the agri-environment, agri-food sector economics and rural society.
  • Identifying opportunities for agriculture, food and bioproducts sectors, and rural communities to provide solutions for environmental challenges.

The Food for Health research theme focuses on supporting improved human health through innovative agri-food products and increasing the competitiveness of Ontario’s agriculture and food sectors.

Research into food-related subjects plays an important role in improving the health of Ontarians, reducing health care costs associated with diet, and improving market opportunities for Ontario growers, manufacturers and related businesses.

Research in this area is diverse, but always connects agriculture and human health. Projects supported range from assessing bioactives in agricultural and agri-food products to developing new products and researching consumer acceptance of them.

This research theme focuses on the development of products and value chains that anticipate market opportunities for Ontario’s agri-food and rural sectors to create a resilient economy and encourage innovation.

New products and value chains face challenges during the start-up phase. Previously developed products and value chains have difficulties at the scale-up phase. This theme works to address both of these issues.

Products may include products, services or technologies that solve a problem or create value through either the market or a non-market form of exchange, including organizational processes. Value chains are strategic partnerships among interdependent businesses that collaborate to create value resulting in improved competitive advantage for all partners.

The Production Systems theme encompasses the development of agricultural production systems that enhance profitability. The two main areas of focus are: Animals and Plants.

Production Systems - Animals

Key research areas related to animal production systems include: animal health and welfare, production efficiency, environmental/ecosystem impact, product quality improvement as well as genetic and reproductive technologies.

Production Systems - Plants

Key research areas related to plant production systems include: plant protection, production efficiency, environmental/ecosystem impact, product quality improvement, product diversification, and genetic technologies. In addition, research projects must relate to one of three sectors: edible horticulture, ornamental horticulture, or field crops.

Research related to crop protection (e.g. pest and weed control in field crops) remains a mainstay in this research theme.

OMAFRA partners, including Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, and Grain Farmers of Ontario, play a central role in establishing research priorities. 

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