President Franco Vaccarino, left, moderating the food innovation panel discussion

The University of Guelph took part in the annual Premier’s Agri-Food Summit Tuesday in Toronto.

Participants at the event, held at the Royal Ontario Museum, included Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; Jeff Leal, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs; and OMAFRA deputy minister Greg Meredith.

President Franco Vaccarino spoke and moderated a panel discussion on innovation.

“The University of Guelph is at the centre of an agri-food research and innovation hub in southern Ontario,” Vaccarino said.

“We are uniquely positioned to help strengthen our province’s already prosperous agri-food sector and to further cement the province’s role as a global leader in this area.”

Vaccarino highlighted benefits and opportunities in Ontario’s agri-food sector during the panel discussion, which involved business and innovation leaders. He stressed partnerships, research and development, innovation and commercialization.

U of G’s 20-year enhanced partnership with OMAFRA is one example of a successful R&D partnership in agri-food, Vaccarino said.

“We are talking two decades of support for research throughout the value chain – and more than $1 billion a year to the Ontario economy in spinoff benefits.”

In a 2017 report, the federal Advisory Council on Economic Growth identified the agri-food sector as one of the country’s strengths. The sector provides food for a growing world, and is an important economic engine, providing more than two million jobs and attracting investment and highly skilled talent, said the report.

The report also named U of G as a key player in developing Canada into a global agri-food leader.

“I believe we, as a country and a University, are ready to make a leap to the next level,” Vaccarino said.

“How do we harness minds and innovation to make that leap?  How do we work together to anticipate and meet needs, address challenges and do it sustainably? These are some of the important discussions that need to be had.”