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Field of OAC Constellation Wheat at harvest

Created At Guelph Annual Report 2022-2023

Welcome Message

At the Research Innovation Office, we define success as our ability to contribute to advancing innovation and research impact at the University of Guelph and beyond.

We've made great strides in research innovation over the past year. Our commitment to translating research into tangible solutions has positioned us as a leader in technology transfer and impactful collaborations.

Our technology transfer team continues to excel, ensuring the smooth transition of discoveries into the market. This, coupled with a thriving and diverse innovation ecosystem, has given rise to entrepreneurial research teams and start-ups that embody the spirit of innovation, contributing not only to economic growth but also to the university's reputation as a hub of creativity.

Strategic collaborations and interdisciplinary initiatives remain at the forefront of our approach. By addressing complex challenges through teamwork, we are generating innovative solutions with the potential to transform industries and positively impact lives.

Community engagement remains a priority, enriching our understanding of regional challenges and leading to community-driven solutions. As we look ahead, our focus on cutting-edge technologies, interdisciplinary collaborations, and a culture of inclusive innovation will propel us toward new heights.

Jessica Bowes (she/her)
Assistant vice-president (research innovation and knowledge mobilization) | Research Innovation Office

$2.1 M

Problem Analysis

Sustainable Agri-Food Futures

With a focus on sustainability in agriculture, the University of Guelph’s Research Innovation Office and Western University’s Innovation North worked together to identify the key problems blocking the path to more sustainable agri-food futures. Following in-depth conversations with farmers, industry partners and academics and using a tool called the Compass, the Research Innovation Office and Innovation North convened a transformative event in April 2023, where diverse minds collaborated and generated game-changing ideas to reclaim soil health.

From the ideas and partnership connections that emerged attendees were encouraged to develop project proposals for the Amplifying Research Impact Fund (ARIF), funded by Food from Thought.

Research and Development

Empowering Innovation through NSERC Lab2Market Program

The NSERC Lab2Market program continues to empower researchers with entrepreneurial ambitions by providing skills training, resources, and support to bring researchers' innovative ideas to market. The focus of the program is to help train teams and develop resources to commercialize inventions and ideas emerging from research programs. Through a comprehensive curriculum, advisor network, and funding opportunities, the program empowers participants to validate their ideas, explore their commercial potential, and ultimately contribute to the advancement of research and the creation of impactful solutions for society.

Over the past year, the program has welcomed four remarkable University of Guelph teams. Drs. Ali Dehghantanha and Huiyan Li entered teams and inventions in the spring 2022 cohort and Drs. Mike Rogers and Jamie Burr entered teams in the fall 2022 cohort. Dr. Ali Dehghantanha also entered a team in the Winter 2023 cohort. Each team improved the market understanding and positioning of the research project they entered, increasing their potential to reshape industries and improve lives.

Dr. Anna Kate Shoveller interacting with a study cat

Championing Discovery: Advancing Dog and Cat Health Through Companion Animal Nutrition Research

The Canadian pet food market, worth billions, presents a significant opportunity for the nation's agri-food sector and economy. However, research in pet nutrition, particularly for dogs and cats, lags behind that of humans and agricultural animals.

To address this gap, Dr. Anna Kate Shoveller (Animal Biosciences, OAC) spearheaded an internship program with Champion Petfoods through the NSERC Alliance-Mitacs Accelerate joint program, securing funding to support seven PhD students and two Postdoctoral fellows over the five-year project. This comprehensive internship program serves as a significant opportunity to educate future scientists and technologists about the burgeoning pet food industry.

The four key research priorities include: optimizing protein quality in dog food, reducing anxiety in pets, understanding fatty acid metabolism, and exploring the impact of micronutrients and polyphenols on pet health.

Dr. Shoveller’s collaboration with Champion Petfoods exemplifies a successful collaboration that leverages industry funds and resources to drive innovation, benefitting both academia and the pet food industry while ultimately improving our recommendations to pet owners, and improving the health and well-being of dogs and cats worldwide.

PHOTO: Dr. Anna Kate Shoveller interacting with a study cat (courtesy of Junelle-Kirsten Fisher).

$3.1 M
Value of Project
5 Years
Length of Project
Top: Tomatoes ripening in Ridgetown test fields. Bottom: Dr. Steven Loewen inspects tomato plants.

From Lab to Field: Advancements in U of G’s Tomato Breeding Program

Dr. Steven Loewen at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus leads a pioneering tomato breeding program that, while not producing ‘finished varieties,’ plays a crucial role in the development of enhanced tomato hybrids worldwide. This program, known for its innovative approach to genetic enhancement, supplies over 200 breeding lines and parental material to private breeding programs, significantly improving the varieties available to farmers in Ontario and beyond.

A key focus of Dr. Loewen’s current research is stacking resistance to multiple diseases in breeding lines, aiming to enhance the genetic diversity and resilience of processing tomatoes. His work in tomato genetics has led to the creation of varieties that mature earlier and are better adapted to humid production regions, traits that now benefit farmers in more than six countries across two continents. 

Supported by the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association through the Ontario Tomato Research Institute, and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and the University of Guelph, Dr. Loewen’s program is addressing some of the most pressing challenges in tomato cultivation. These achievements underscore the global impact of the Ridgetown campus’s research efforts, contributing to the agricultural industry in ways that extend far beyond the immediate community.

PHOTOS: Tomatoes ripening in the Ridgetown processing tomato breeding field nursery (top - courtesy of Nakita Byrne-Mamahit). Dr. Steven Loewen inspects tomato plants (bottom - courtesy of Nakita Byrne-Mamahit).

Graduate students Rhiannon James (background) and Zakia Ahmed (foreground) characterizing collected sediment core

Understanding Groundwater, Agronomy, and Drainage System Design Influences on Tile Water Quantity and Quality

Agricultural field tile drains play a crucial role in improving crop growth by removing excess water from fields, allowing farmers to get on their fields earlier and improving crop growth. However, these drains can also impact the water cycle and the environment.

To better understand this relationship and predict optimal conditions for farmers and the environment, Dr. Jana Levison (Engineering, CEPS) collaborated with a diverse group of partners, including the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA), County of Huron, Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association (HCSCIA), Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario (LICO), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Dr. Emmanuelle Arnaud (School of Environmental Sciences, OAC), Dr. Merrin Macrae (University of Waterloo), and Dr. Colby Steelman (University of Waterloo). Together, and with the support of the Research Innovation Office's Industry Liaison team, Dr. Levison prepared a successful NSERC Alliance Society (formerly Option 2) application to investigate the relationship between tile drainage, groundwater and environmental conditions. Through their collaborative efforts, the project seeks to enhance crop yields, improve water management strategies, and minimize environmental impact.

PHOTO: Graduate students Rhiannon James (background) and Zakia Ahmed (foreground) characterizing collected sediment core (courtesy of Dr. Emmanuelle Arnaud).

$266 K
Value of Project
Industry Partners


Inspire Biotherapeutics Targets Genetic Lung Diseases

Drs. Sarah Wootton and Laura Lieshout at the University of Guelph, experts in viral vector vaccines, created a novel viral vector in 2017 to treat untreatable lung diseases. This triple mutant vector called AAV6.2FF had the ability to deliver vital genes to the lungs of a patient without affecting the rest of the body. This now patented vector was codeveloped with Dr. Bernard Thébaud and his clinical research team at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and CHEO, where he is an expert in human clinical trials involving neonatal genetic lung diseases. To advance regulatory approval of this gene therapy, the researchers from Guelph and Ottawa teamed up and cofounded a spinoff company in 2023 called Inspire Biotherapeutics with the help of business executives from C3i Centre, Octane Medical Group, and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Inspire’s mission is to create life-saving gene therapies for individuals with devastating diseases of the lung that have few or no other treatments. Inspire has demonstrated the ability of AAV6.2FF to deliver and express vital genes to the lungs over the long term in animal models. Inspire is currently collaborating with industry partners to start a First-in-Human (N=1) clinical trial to treat a rare lethal neonatal lung disease caused by a genetic defect in the lung surfactant gene. If successful, Inspire hopes to apply their vector platform to treating Cystic Fibrosis, Interstitial Lung Disease, Pulmonary Fibrosis, and other monogenic lung diseases.

PHOTO: Dr. Sarah Wootton (left - courtesy of University of Guelph). Dr. Bernard Thébaud (right - courtesy of The Ottawa Hospital).

Left: Dr. Sarah Wootton; Right: Dr. Bernard Thebaud
Drs. Baes, Malchiodi, Miglior, Schenkel, Shadpour with green machine methane measuring system and dairy cow

2023 Innovation of the Year

The work of Drs. Christine Baes, Flavio Schenkel, Saeed Shadpour, Filippo Miglior, and Francesca Malchiodi in developing a national genetic evaluation system for reducing methane emissions in dairy cattle has been recognized as the University of Guelph 2023 Innovation of the Year.

The team collected data from a significant reference population, including measures of feed efficiency, methane emissions, fertility, and health. The researchers also used mid-infrared reflectance spectroscopy data (MIRS) from milk samples to analyze components like fat and protein content, predicting cows' methane emissions.

In collaboration with key partners, Lactanet Canada and Semex, who played pivotal roles in translating research findings into practical applications, Dr. Christine Baes and her team are tackling global challenges related to climate change with a groundbreaking innovation that aligns with the dairy industry's ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

PHOTO: Drs. Saeed Shadpour, Flavio Schenkel, Christine Baes, Filippo Miglior, Francesca Malchiodi, pictured with dairy cow and methane measuring green machine at the Ontario Dairy Research Centre (ODRC*) in Elora (courtesy of Martin Schwalbe). 

*This research was funded in part by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, and took place, in part, at the ODRC, which is owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and managed by U of G through the Alliance.

Remix Genetics Introduces Innovative Cannabis Cultivar to New Brunswick Market

Remix Genetics, a genetic start-up rooted in University of Guelph research, has unveiled Higher Education, a new cannabis cultivar to be released in New Brunswick. Developed by Austin Baiton during his master's thesis under Dr. Max Jones's guidance in the Department of Plant Agriculture, this is the first seedless triploid strain released in Canada and is the product of thoughtful research spanning several years.

Unlike standard cannabis varieties, this strain's uniqueness lies in its seedless nature, a characteristic derived from an understanding of chromosome sets. Simply put, species with a divisible-by-two chromosome set can produce seeds, while those with uneven sets tend to be sterile or seedless. This underlying technology is widely adopted in the agricultural sector and is responsible for seedless food crops including banana and watermelon.

Remix Genetics has partnered exclusively with Hidden Harvest in New Brunswick to make this strain available to the public by spring 2024. Beyond its seedless quality, the cultivar's ability to thrive outdoors provides an added benefit for cannabis cultivators.

Additionally, multi-ploidy cannabis strains, including this one, may offer potential advantages such as higher THC levels, increased yields, and faster growth. While these characteristics are noteworthy, Remix Genetics remains focused on providing practical solutions for cannabis producers striving for profitability.

The Remix Genetics team also includes Steve Dinka and Scott Golem, professionals with decades of cumulative experience in commercial cannabis operations in Canada. This expertise contributes to addressing challenges and exploring opportunities in today's cannabis industry. The team takes pride in the launch of their first product, considering it a meaningful milestone in the field of cannabis cultivation and genetics.

PHOTO: Remix Genetics logo above photo of Austin Baiton in lab with Higher Education Cultivar. (courtesy of Stephen Dinka).

Remix Genetics logo above photo of Austin Baiton in lab with Higher Education Cultivar.
Tractor with sprayer moving through crops

Ontario Agri-Tech Pitch Competition

In an evolution of the well-known Gryphon's LAAIR Program funded through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, the Research Innovation Office was proud to once again collaborate with the Government of Ontario to deliver the Ontario Agri-Tech Pitch Competition in March 2023.

The pitch competition saw the next generation of agri-tech start-up companies from across Ontario pitch their ideas to advance the Ontario agri-food sector. By uniting farmers, academics, agri-tech entrepreneurs and investors the competition raised awareness about the problems in the agri-food sector and showcased investible companies and solutions.

Biofect Innovations, a start-up using precision fermentation and unused production byproducts to create a sugar substitute, pitched against four other Ontario start-ups to take the competition's $10,000 grand prize.

PHOTO: Ontario Agri-Tech Pitch Competition competitors (courtesy of Valerie Hruska).

2023 Ontario Agri-tech Pitch Competitors

Diffusion and Adoption

Policy Fellowship in Agriculture, Food and Biodiversity

The University of Guelph Policy Fellowship Program continues to excel in connecting government, industry, and non-governmental organization (NGO) decision-makers with University of Guelph experts. Together, they engage in focused discussions addressing challenges and emerging needs within agriculture, food, and biodiversity sectors.

In 2022, the program transitioned to a themed cohort model. This approach brought together Fellows who share common interests, enhancing their group learning and networking opportunities, while still providing access to cutting-edge research and University expertise, which is a cornerstone of the Policy Fellowship program.

In the summer and fall of 2022, our program offerings centered around the Circular Economy and Environmental Sustainability in Agri-Food, respectively.

Circular Economy

The Summer 2022 cohort of Fellows were invited to participate in the Implementation Science Summer School, a program administered through the SMART Training Platform. This comprehensive educational opportunity spanned multiple days and provided an immersive learning experience that involved tackling real-world challenges, visiting research centers and local organizations, and receiving instruction in the fundamentals of implementation science, with a particular focus on matters related to the circular economy.

PHOTO: The Circular Economy cohort and SMART Training Platform students engage with representatives from local organizations in a panel discussion about real-world circular economy issues (top - courtesy of Valerie Hruska). With facilitation from Dr. Steven Clarke (SEDRD), groups work collaboratively to identify sustainable solutions for these organizations’ circular economy issues (second from top - courtesy of Valerie Hruska).

Environmental Sustainability in Agri-Food

During the autumn of 2022, the Policy Fellowship program adopted a hybrid format. This program commenced with two days of virtual group lectures, featuring faculty and experts who addressed the central theme of environmental sustainability in agri-food. The lectures encompassed a range of topics, including the impacts of fertilizers, soil health, regenerative agriculture, and livestock genomics. Upon completing the virtual portion of the fellowship program, Fellows were given the opportunity to attend a day of guided in-person tours at the ARIO-owned dairy and beef research centres in Elora.

PHOTO: Snow-capped beehives at the Honey Bee Research Centre visited by the Fellows during a tour where they learned about cutting-edge research and the important role bees play in sustainable agriculture (second from bottom - courtesy of courtesy of Valerie Hruska). The Fellows tour the Ontario Dairy Research Centre in Elora during the Sustainable Agriculture cohort (bottom - courtesy of courtesy of Valerie Hruska).

Top: Circular Economy Fellows and SMART Training Platform students work collaboratively in groups at a workshop to identify sustainable solutions for circular economy issues. Bottom: Fellows a tour the Ontario Dairy Research Centre in Elora during the Sustainable Agriculture cohort.