Innovating to improve life

The University of Guelph's 150 Innovations Project commemorates Canada’s sesquicentennial. Research has long been part of our culture, beginning in the late 1800s with our three founding colleges. It continues today, in what has grown to become seven colleges with more than 30 departments. Support from a wide range of sponsors helps our 800 researchers innovate and improve life for people and communities locally, nationally and globally. Follow the links provided with each entry for more information about this selection of 150 University of Guelph innovations.

The proof is in the packaging

Antimicrobial nonwoven membrane

A natural ingredient found in broccoli, kale, mustard and wasabi, known as allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), is a potent antimicrobial agent that kills the mold, yeast and bacteria that can spoil food. Prof. Loong-Tak Lim and his team developed a method, using electrostatics, to spin ultrafine fibres controling the release of AITC for food preservation. The fibres are being used in active packaging applications to enhance shelf life, safety and quality of food. His team is currently developing similar active packaging systems involving other naturally-occurring volatile compounds to delay the spoilage of fresh produce.  Image: Antimicrobial nonwoven membrane, courtesy Loong-Tak Lim

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Gryphsens tool detects dairy disease

Photo of the Gryphsens app

Gryphsens allows dairy producers to detect metabolic diseases in their cattle quicker and easier than ever before—all without leaving the farm. The handheld device, developed at the U of G, recognizes biomarkers in blood samples of cows to verify whether they are disease carriers or not. Rather than waiting weeks for samples to be sent to a lab, producers can detect and treat disease early and prevent production loss using this innovative tool. Photo courtesy Suresh Neethirajan

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Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph (SURG)

Cover of the latest issue of SURG

Research publications are widely known for graduate and post-graduate work. Undergraduate research is seen much less. While still an undergraduate at the U of G, Matt Teeter worked with the Office of Research to launch Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph (SURG) and shed light on the significant amount of undergraduate research at UofG. The publication highlights research conducted in all disciplines at the University. 

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Colourful veggies

multi-coloured carrots

It's true what they say about having colour in your diet -- it's better for you, as shown by the disease-fighting purple and yellow carrots and potatoes studied at the Muck Crops Research Station by plant agriculture professor Mary Ruth MacDonald. These vegetables get some of their colour from compounds that help fight cancer and diabetes. Being researched in Ontario means they are able to be grown locally by Ontario farmers, who are planting them now. 

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Spinning disk confocal microscope

Pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells (green) are shown grown as a biofilm in a flow cell reactor. The bacterial cells are surrounded by extracellular DNA (red) and polysaccharides (blue), which provide protection to the cells and lead to enhanced antibiotic resistance.

The spinning disk confocal microscope is an innovative tool used to capture real-time cellular images in 3D. The microscope generates images at up to 100 frames per second, allowing researchers to visualize biological processes that occur too quickly to observe under traditional microscopes. U of G researchers acquired the tool to better understand how bacterial communities affect chronic infections associated with cystic fibrosis. 

Photo: Pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells (green) are shown grown as a biofilm in a flow cell reactor. The bacterial cells are surrounded by extracellular DNA (red) and polysaccharides (blue), which provide protection to the cells and lead to enhanced antibiotic resistance. Image collected by Kirsten Chuli, an MSc student in the Khursigara Lab.

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The Machine Learning Working Group

Photo of a hand holding a cell phone

The Machine Learning Research Group, led by Prof. Graham Taylor, facilitates collaborative artificial intelligence research between graduate students, post doctorates and researchers from around the world. The group has collaborated with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects research team to develop a novel, password-free cellphone user identification system based on user habits such as body motion, typing patterns and facial recognition software. Currently they are working on a research project with Amazon. 

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Food From Thought to feed the world

Photo of a field from a drone view

The Food From Thought project aims to connect agriculture with the data science and the digital revolution, to find new ways to produce food for the world’s growing population. Food From Thought is a pan-university initiative, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, key industry players including IBM, and units including the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and the Arrell Food Institute. This initiative brings together experts from on and off campus to generate and transfer knowledge that will inform policies and practices involving precision agriculture and big data, for better farm management and environmental sustainability. By drawing on U of G’s extensive expertise from across the farm-to-fork continuum, and linking our researchers with non-academic partners, Food From Thought helps position the U of G and Canada as leaders in sustainable food production. 

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Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns

Photo of gloved hands holding a syringe that is in an egg

Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns, or PAMPs, are molecules that trigger rapid immune responses against an array of disease-causing microbes, such as viruses. These molecules can be used to protect poultry against avian influenza and have proven to work  faster and, in some cases, more effectively than traditional vaccines. Researched by Prof. Shayan Sharif of the Ontario Veterinary College and the Poultry Health Research Network, PAMPs may be administered through spray form and activate the birds’ immune systems within 24 hours. Sharif says PAMPs could be applied to other species, including humans, to prevent contagious disease transmission. Photo courtesy Shayan Sharif

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School Malaise Trap Program

A collage of photos showing different aspects of the program

Through the School Malaise Trap Program, elementary and secondary school children across Canada learn hands-on research, and are encouraged to become actively engaged citizen scientists. The program provides educational materials and tools such as a malaise trap, a tent-like structure used to catch insects. After the insects are collected by the malaise traps, specimens are sent to the U of G’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics for analysis. The results contribute to the Barcode of Life Data systems. Photo: Dirk Steinke

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Using microorganisms to clean water

Photo of the Grand River

Pollutant-eating microorganisms naturally found in water are being grown by Profs Jack Trevors and Hung Lee in partnership with SiREM, a Guelph remediation services company, as a new way to decontaminate, protect and clean local water sources. The cost-effective microorganisms can be shipped anywhere in the world, and can be injected through groundwater wells to help decrease toxic chemicals.  

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