NSERC-SSHRC Sustainable Agriculture Research Initiative

Updated Information

Added April 4, 2023

  • Details on upcoming informational webinar details have been added under ‘Special Notes.’’ 


A joint effort between the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).


Sustainable Agriculture Research Initiative

For More Information

NSERC-SSHRC Sustainable Agriculture Research Initiative

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 

Safeguarding your Research Portal


NSERC, SSHRC and AAFC are collaborating to support research to initiate or accelerate the development of transformative innovations, practices, technologies, products, land uses and inputs that will lead to a sustainable, profitable and resilient agriculture and agri-food sector in the uncertain climate and net-zero economy of the future.

This initiative will help reinforce, coordinate and scale up Canada's domestic research capabilities through partnerships between universities, colleges and organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. For example, this initiative will support research on crop varieties that require less fertilizer, social science research that supports the adoption of climate smart practices, and the development of metrics to understand and report on the impacts of producer actions and government programming. The aim is to support research, which will enable the Canadian agricultural sector to contribute to Canada's GHG emission goals.

This initiative will fund multidisciplinary, collaborative networks of researchers to address specific research objectives by initiating or accelerating the development of truly transformative solutions, and by mobilizing expertise, technologies and research in  social sciences, natural sciences and engineering and in areas that broaden the traditional network of agriculture research partners. With the objective of amplifying long-term adoption, this funding will support both fundamental and applied research to accelerate the knowledge base for transformative alternative practices, technologies, and their adoptions, as well as to build reliable and consistent measurement tools and performance metrics. To significantly increase the speed at which proven technologies and practices are adopted within the sector, proposals should clearly define a plan for knowledge translation and transfer to the sector.

Research objectives

This funding opportunity for transformative science towards a sustainable agricultural sector in a net-zero economy, delivered jointly by NSERC and SSHRC in collaboration with AAFC, has the following objectives:

  • Support fundamental and applied research to develop a technical path to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural sector in a net-zero economy.
  • Develop metrics to better understand and report on environment and climate impacts of different production systems and of producers' efforts in adopting innovative practices.
  • Improve ways to transfer science and technology knowledge effectively to the agricultural sector, with a view to accelerate change.

Proposals should focus on developing transformative solutions towards significant reduction of agriculture GHG emissions and propose research required to develop a technical path to a sustainable and resilient sector in a net-zero economy, in research topics such as, but not limited to:

  1. Identification of practices and technologies to enable the sector to sequester carbon effectively (e.g., nature-based climate solutions or technologies that enhance soil carbon sequestration)
  2. Alternative input management tools and technologies (e.g., novel pesticides/fertilizers, improved delivery methods, precision agriculture)
  3. Innovative plant health solutions that reduce the need for added amendments (e.g., biofertilizers, plant gene-editing, nanotechnology)
  4. Diverse production systems (crop, soil, livestock, grassland and nutrient management systems) that maximize environmental outcomes in future climate change scenarios
  5. Development and testing of improved methane and nitrous oxide emission factors, measurement tools and models
  6. Fundamental socio-economic and behavioural research towards increased adoption of practices and technologies that support greenhouse gas mitigation in the agriculture and agri-food sector
  7. Development of metrics to better understand and report on environment and climate impacts, including biophysical and socio-economic


Research Team Eligibility

Canadian university researchers from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences or engineering fields, may apply for this funding opportunity. Specifically, eligible Canadian university researchers must apply as part of a team with two or more eligible co-applicants. To be an applicant or co-applicant, you must be working in a research area supported by NSERC or SSHRC and you must meet NSERC's eligibility requirements at the time of application. College faculty who meet NSERC's eligibility requirements may participate as co-applicants. Other researchers (e.g., from academia, the public, private or not-for-profit sectors) can participate as collaborators. 

Faculty members are limited to one application as the applicant, but you can be a co-applicant or collaborator on more than one application.

NSERC and SSHRC will review all proposals to determine which agency's research areas they fall under. NSERC will provide funding for research primarily in the natural sciences and engineering fields, while SSHRC will support research primarily in the social sciences and humanities fields. NSERC funding will be provided as an Alliance grant, while SSHRC funding will be provided as a Partnership-type grant.

NSERC and SSHRC encourage the participation of early career researchers (ECRs) as applicants or co-applicants on grant applications. While applications led by ECRs will be assessed using the same evaluation criteria, the merit indicators used for the assessment include provisions for cases where the applicant's experience in managing projects or mentoring trainees is nascent.

Partner Organizations

Grants awarded as part of this initiative will support large-scale proposals, and so applicants are encouraged to involve researchers across several universities, colleges and disciplines, and to include multiple partner organizations in their application. To maximize the potential impact, benefits and knowledge mobilization of the research, at least one partner organization is required, however, collaboration with additional partner organizations is encouraged. Even though NSERC and SSHRC will cover 100% of the project's eligible costs, you must include at least one partner organization (from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors) whose cash contributions would have been recognized for cost sharing (see Alliance grants: Role of partner organizations for more details).

You must include at least one partner organization whose cash contributions would be recognized for cost sharing had there been any required. To maximize the impact, benefits and knowledge mobilization of the research, collaboration with additional partner organizations is encouraged.

Your partner organizations can be private, public or not-for-profit. You may involve whichever partner organizations you need to achieve your research goals and successfully mobilize your research results to achieve the desired impact. At least one of these partners must have a demonstrated ability to exploit such research results, while other partners may be chosen for their ability to generate or mobilize knowledge. Each partner organization must actively play a role in the project and support it through in-kind contributions. Such involvement must be achieved by doing at least one of the following:

  • play an active role in the project's research activities
  • utilize the project's research results to help achieve its desired outcomes
  • play an active role in translating or mobilizing knowledge to ensure that the research results have an impact

Various in-kind contributions could be made towards the project, such as the time of the partner organization's experts, scientific, engineering or technical staff to provide direction and participate in the project; provision of equipment, materials or services; and provision of access to data or special equipment. More details on potential in-kind contributions can be found in NSERC's Alliance grants' instructions and in SSHRC's Guidelines for Cash and In-Kind Contributions.

Active participation in the project and in-kind contributions are not required from funding organizations (e.g., other provincial or federal funding agencies) providing financial support to the project alongside NSERC and SSHRC (see the Funding tab for more information).

Eligible Expenses

For full project applications, funds from NSERC and SSHRC cover the direct costs of the research and are paid to eligible universities. The funds from NSERC and SSHRC cannot be used to buy equipment, products or services from partner organizations, nor to cover any part of the travel and travel-related subsistence expenditures for partner organization personnel.

You can only include NSERC- and SSHRC-eligible direct costs of research in your project budget, such as:

  • salary support for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows to perform research and related training
  • salary support for technicians and research professional personnel
  • materials and supplies
  • activities that support collaborations and knowledge mobilization related to the project, including the costs associated with building relationships with communities
  • activities to develop and grow the research collaborations with the partner organizations and relevant communities and/or end users
  • limited costs towards course load reduction, for replacement of faculty to support college
    Footnote*: faculty members' involvement in the research project (up to $9,000 per course load reduction per semester per faculty, or the equivalent of 0.1 full-time-equivalent positions)

Refer to the guidelines on the use of grant funds in the Tri-agency guide on financial administration or contact NSERC or SSHRC to confirm the eligibility of proposed expenses related to the above.

You can also include the costs of equipment, provided that the equipment is:

  • essential to achieving the objectives of the research project
  • incremental to the equipment already available at the university or at the partner organization's location

Your total expected equipment cost (including operation and maintenance) cannot exceed $400,000 over the duration of the project.

For projects involving multiple partner organizations and/or universities, you may include project management costs, up to 10% of the total direct research costs (see Guidelines for research partnerships programs project management expenses).

Funding Availability

Total funding of up to $72 million is available from NSERC and SSHRC. 

Maximum Project Value

Grant support from this initiative will range from $500,000 to $2,000,000 per year, for four years. NSERC and SSHRC will provide support for 100% of the eligible costs of research.

Partner Organizations Contributions/Funds from Other Sources

Although partner organizations do not need to provide cash contributions to participate, they must actively play a role in the research project and support it through in-kind contributions.

Cash contributions from partner organizations are not required. You cannot use an Alliance grant or a SSHRC Partnership grant to support secret or contract research.

You and your co-applicants may receive funds from other sources to cover direct costs of your project. These sources of funds could include cash contributions provided by other funding agencies, and such funds would add to and complement those requested from NSERC and SSHRC. You must include all of the project's direct costs funded by sources other than NSERC or SSHRC in the budget table. All costs must be explained in your application and will be considered in the merit assessment stage.

In-kind contributions are important for the success of the project. All partner organizations participating in the project must play an active role in it and make in-kind contributions through such involvement (see the Alliance grants: Partner organizations page for more details). In-kind contributions are considered in the merit assessment of your proposal (see the Alliance grants: Review of your application).

Indirect Costs

0% on NSERC/SSHRC funds. 

Project Duration

Four years. Applications for projects less than four years will not be accepted.

Special Notes

Informational Webinars
NSERC is offering informational webinars about the NSERC-SSHRC Sustainable agriculture research initiative and will be available to answer questions from attendees. The webinars will be held at the dates and times listed below. Sessions will be available in English and French. 

English sessions (Webex):

1) Tuesday, April 11, 2023, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm Eastern Time (ET)
Click here to join the meeting
Meeting number: 2774 406 3944
Password: ALLRP2023!

Join by phone:
1-613-714-9906 Canada Toll (Ottawa)
1-844-426-4405 Canada Toll Free
Access code: 277 440 63944

2) Tuesday, May 02, 2023, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (ET)
Click here to join the meeting
Meeting number: 2774 003 3620
Password: ALLRP2023!

Join by phone:
1-613-714-9906 Canada Toll (Ottawa)
1-844-426-4405 Canada Toll Free
Access code: 277 400 33620

French sessions (Webex):

1) Thursday, April 13, 2023, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (ET)
Click here to join the meeting
Meeting number: 2771 116 7581
Password: ALLRP2023!

Join by phone:
1-613-714-9906 Canada Toll (Ottawa)
1-844-426-4405 Canada Toll Free
Access code: 277 111 67581

2) Wednesday, May 03, 2023, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (ET)
Click here to join the meeting
Meeting number: 2772 990 2968
Password: ALLRP2023!

Join by phone:
1-613-714-9906 Canada Toll (Ottawa)
1-844-426-4405 Canada Toll Free
Access code: 277 299 02968

Safeguarding your research

At all times, Canadian researchers are encouraged to exercise appropriate levels of due diligence when managing their research and establishing and/or continuing partnerships with national, international and multinational partners. Resources to do so are provided by the Government of Canada on the Safeguarding Your Research portal.

NSERC’s funding will be provided as an Alliance grant; therefore, Canada's National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships apply to NSERC-funded applications that involve one or more partner organization from the private sector, including when they participate alongside other partner organizations from the public and/or not-for-profit sectors. These guidelines provide a framework through which researchers, research institutions and Canada's granting agencies can undertake consistent, risk-targeted due diligence to identify and mitigate potential national security risks linked to research partnerships.

No further information is required at the time of application. If your proposal includes substantial content in the natural sciences or engineering fields and includes one or more partner organization from the private sector, you and your postsecondary institution will be contacted at a later date by NSERC and asked to complete the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships' Risk Assessment Form

Collaborating with Indigenous communities and/or partners

Researchers proposing research in cooperation with Indigenous groups are encouraged to consult the resources available on SSHRC's Indigenous Research web page.

Collaborating internationally

To increase the impact of Canadian research in the global research community, you may incorporate international collaborations into your project proposal, but these researchers must secure their own sources of funding. You may interact with foreign colleagues in a variety of ways to enhance collaboration and increase your project's impact. Refer to the Tri-agency guide on financial administration for details on the eligibility of expenses you may incur in support of such collaborations.

Collaborating across disciplines

This initiative recognizes the need to bring together the social and behavioural sciences and humanities, alongside the natural sciences and engineering (NSE) fields, to make important contributions to the transformation needed in society. For this initiative, there are no restrictions regarding the balance of project costs between the NSE and the social sciences and humanities fields. Where possible, applicants should distinguish between costs related to NSE research and costs related to social and behavioural sciences and humanities research in their budget justification.

Research costs for collaborations outside the NSE and social and behavioural sciences and humanities (i.e., health) can represent up to 30% of the project costs and must be specifically identified in the project budget justification.

Please note that research activities carried out in the context of COVID-19 need to adhere to the University of Guelph COVID-19 research principles, policies, guidelines and processes as they may be updated from time to time and communicated on the Office of Research web-page.


If College-level review is required, your College will communicate its earlier internal deadlines.

Internal Deadline

Preparatory Funding Internal Deadline: Please submit a preliminary signed OR-5 (with budget for preparatory funding), and a copy of the Letter of Intent Proposal (following the instructions under Step 1 - How to Apply: Preparatory Funding) to research.services@uoguelph.ca. Please be sure to 'verify and submit' the application in NSERC's system. 

External Deadline

Preparatory Funding External Deadline: The Research Services Office will submit the Letter of Intent for Preparatory Funding on behalf of the lead applicant to NSERC through their online system. 

Internal Deadline

Full Project Funding Internal Deadline: Please submit a *new* signed OR-5 (with budget for full project funding), and a copy of the Full Application (following the instructions under Step 2 - How to Apply: Full Project Applications) to research.services@uoguelph.ca. Please be sure to 'verify and submit' the application in NSERC's system. 

External Deadline

Full Project Funding External Deadline: The Research Services Office will submit the Full Project Funding Application on behalf of the lead applicant to NSERC through their online system. 

How to Apply

How to Apply - Step 1: Preparatory Funding (accepted externally until May 8, 2023)

  1. Log in to NSERC's online system and choose 'Create a new form 101'.
  2. Select 'Research partnerships programs', then 'Alliance grants'.
  3. For the Proposal type field, select 'Letter of intent'.
  4. For the Type of call field, select 'Preparatory funds for sustainable agriculture' from the drop-down menu.

Taking into account the information for preparatory funding as outlined in the Funding section, complete the other required sections of your application. Your request for preparatory funding should include:

  • your summary for public release and ten keywords
  • details on fit to the initiative, and the team, including the names of two or more co-applicants and potential partners (maximum 2 pages)
  • a list of other sources of support and the amounts provided (if applicable)
  • how the funds will be used (budget and budget justification)
  • a form 100A and CCV for the applicant

To facilitate partnerships and build successful multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral collaborations required to establish strong teams and relevant proposals, preparatory funds are available to NSERC- and SSHRC-eligible researchers. Up to $50,000 can be requested to support application-related expenses. Only one application for preparatory funding can be submitted per team and it is expected that ~20 awards will be available.  The award start date for preparatory funds is expected to be June 1, 2023.

Preparatory funds may be used for application-related expenses, such as:

  • Meetings costs (the use of conference calls is encouraged whenever possible)
  • Travel and accommodation expenses of academic participants as well as local community advisors, such as Indigenous elders or agricultural producers, for any face-to-face meetings required to develop the proposal (partner organizations are expected to demonstrate commitment to the project by covering their own costs)
  • Communication, secretarial, clerical and coordination services over and above what is available from the universities involved and the partner organizations; salaries of technical writers may be requested but only up to a maximum of $15,000

How to Apply - Step 2: Full Project Applications (accepted externally until November 8, 2023)

  1. Log in to NSERC's online system and choose 'Create a new form 101'.
  2. Select 'Research partnerships programs', then 'Alliance grants'.
  3. For the Proposal type field, select 'Full proposal'.
  4. For the Type of call field, select 'Sustainable agriculture' from the drop-down menu.
  5. Following the instructions for completing an Alliance grant application, fill out the proposal template and complete the other sections of your application. Delete the 'Public impact value proposition' section from the proposal template. It does not apply to the Sustainable agriculture research initiative.
  6. Submit your completed application and supporting documents, including a personal data form with CCV attachment for the applicant and all co-applicants, via NSERC's online system. Your partner organization's contact person will be invited through the online system to provide information about their organization following the Alliance grants partner organization instructions.

Information For Co-applicants

If you need to meet a deadline set by the lead institution for this opportunity, please ensure that you provide the Office of Research with at least five days in advance of the lead institution’s deadline to review the application, or your proposed component of the project. Please be in touch with the Office of Research (contact information below) ahead of the deadline if it looks like it will be difficult for you to submit all the required documentation on time (i.e. budget, proposal, OR-5 Form).

For Questions, please contact


Office of Research

Rachel Lee, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist
Research Services Office

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