OMAFRA Invests in Future Leaders

July 20, 2010 - News Release

Nearly $700,000 in new scholarships for emerging leaders in the agri-food and bioeconomy sectors has been awarded to 32 graduate students at the University of Guelph. The funding is provided via the University's partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

"The future of Ontario’s economic prosperity rests on making sure we plan for future generations of researchers, public policy-makers and innovators in agri-food," said Stewart Cressman, chair of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.

The scholarships — worth $17,300 a year for master’s students and $21,000 a year for doctoral students — are part of the High Quality Personnel (HQP) program. Introduced as part of the renewed U of G/OMAFRA partnership, it provides nearly $5 million over five years for graduate scholarships in priority areas, including environmental sustainability, agricultural and rural policy, emergency management, and food and health.

This is the first time HQP scholarships have been awarded under the partnership. A second round is expected before the fall semester, bringing the total number of HPQ scholars to 50 and the financial support this year to about $1 million.

“This is a tremendous investment that OMAFRA is making in the future of agri-food,” said Prof. Rich Moccia, associate vice-president (research).

“It’s demonstrative of the government’s faith in Guelph’s ability to train the next generation of industry leaders and in the University’s commitment to ensuring Ontario remains competitive in this ever-important sector," he said. "Few places can match Guelph’s depth of research, teaching and training across the full spectrum of agri-food and the bioeconomy.”

Agriculture and food is Ontario's second-largest industry, contributing $30 billion to the provincial economy and employing more than 700,000 people.

The 32 students come from 12 U of G departments, where they are conducting research across the gamut of the University’s strengths. For example, Tyler Fuhrman, a PhD student in plant agriculture, is investigating a needs-based hydroponic system for greenhouse plants that would save money and reduce waste. Food science doctoral student Mark Gannon is studying the health effects of a novel delivery system for functional foods. And engineering PhD student Nima Zarrinbakhsh is developing car parts from corn components left over from ethanol manufacturing.

“The research our graduate students are engaged in has the potential to increase understanding and add value to many Ontario sectors,” said animal and poultry science professor Steve Leeson, who oversees the HQP program.

Scholarship recipients also take a course that covers business practices, commercialization, public-sector issues and the impact of the agri-food industry, and they participate in a semester-long job-shadowing/work experience. They are eligible to receive a top-up stipend of $2,000 for master’s students and $5,000 for PhD students from their faculty advisers.

U of G and OMAFRA first entered into an enhanced partnership agreement in 1997, and it was renewed in 2008 for another 10 years. Under the agreement, the University manages research and education programs and related facilities, including three regional campuses at Alfred, Ridgetown and Kemptville and 13 off-campus research facilities.

The partnership has garnered tremendous social, economic, environmental and health benefits for the agri-food industry and province, returning more than $1.15 billion to the Ontario economy annually.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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