Feeding the country’s need for new knowledge in agriculture

Tractor cultivating field at spring, aerial view.

Feeding the country’s need for new knowledge in agriculture

Canadian agriculture has long relied on leading-edge research and technology development to keep pace with the rapidly changing ways we produce food. That tradition continues in state-of-the-art labs across the country.
April 3, 2018

From the invention of Marquis wheat in 1909, to the development of a test for porcine stress syndrome — the world’s first genetic test for livestock — Canadian researchers have been busy rolling up their sleeves to give Canada’s farmers an innovative edge. Today, from PEI potato farmers to Alberta cattle ranchers, CFI-funded researchers continue this rich tradition. Whether enabling the use of state-of-the art digital tools on the farm, or providing insights from harvesting big data on soil health, researchers are giving the agricultural community the tools to grow sustainably and maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing industry, the success of which we all enjoy on our plates.

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Pathways to impact: agricultural research

Uncovering the common pathways from agricultural research to the impact it has on Canadians

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  • For Navin Ramankutty it has been a great season for data. One of the University of British Columbia geographer's graduate students recently uncovered high-resolution agricultural census data from about 40 countries, including data for every single farm in some countries. “It's a ton of information, it’s really exciting,” says Ramankutty, the Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and Food Security. Ramankutty’s Land Use and Global Environment research group is a global leader in developing sustainable agriculture data sets — ones that are delivering evidence-based...
  • In 2009 the journal Science’s cover featured a Hereford cow’s face. The researchers at the Alberta Bovine Genomics Program cheered. With CFI support, they had made the Canadian contribution to the international effort to map the cow genome, the cover story. “Our goal is to use genomic information to develop tools that can improve the competitiveness of the Canadian commercial beef sector so they can continue to produce the highest quality product with the lowest environmental impact,” says, Graham Plastow, a geneticist at the University of Alberta. Since that 2009 milestone, he has...
  • Several years ago when biosystems engineer Qiang Zhang read a report on food insecurity in Canada's north, a light turned on. “We've got a solution,” says Zhang, who has been thinking about greenhouse design for almost two decades. With CFI support, Zhang has turned his vision into a nearly complete prototype of the world's first all-in-one, low-cost, energy efficient greenhouse developed for an extreme northern climate. “We are developing a system that we can pack in a shipping container, ship it to the north and the container becomes part of the structure,” says Zhang, a professor...
  • Helen Hambly Odame says that for Canadian farms to survive and thrive in the 21st century tractors and rain are only part of the formula: farmers also need digital tools and high-speed Internet access to use them. “The Canadian agricultural industry and farmers need to get ahead of the curve on these technologies,” says Hambly Odame, an agriculture communication and rural development researcher at the University of Guelph. Hambly Odame is a Canadian and international leader in working to identify ways to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban Canadians. With CFI support, in...
  • When soil scientist Derek Lynch looks out across a field of alfalfa or corn, he’s not thinking only of the crop. He’s thinking about what’s sustaining it and future harvests. “My goal is to improve farmers’ understanding of how their crop management influences soil health, soil organic matter and stored soil carbon,” says Lynch, a researcher in Dalhousie University’s Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences. His lab group’s extensive research program — from Prince Edward Island potato farms to Ontario dairy operations to grain farms in Manitoba — is...
  • It’s not surprising that farmers experience back pain more often than most of us. They work long hours, lift massive loads, and hop on and off large tractors and trucks. But one unexpected source of back pain comes from the vibrations caused by driving heavy equipment. University of Saskatchewan student Xiaoke Zeng worked first-hand with farmers to study the health effects of whole-body vibration. “Driving is such a regular thing they do every day and they’re not only driving one piece of equipment, they’re transferring very frequently,” says Zeng. “Vibration level definitely...