The University of Guelph today launched a new initiative to turn cutting-edge agri-food innovations into products and applications that will improve life and help grow the economy.
The announcement was made during an “innovation showcase” that featured leading-edge U of G agri-food projects and was attended by University, industry and government officials, including MP Lloyd Longfield and MPP Liz Sandals.
Accelerator Guelph will assist U of G researchers in commercializing their novel ideas and discoveries. It will help bolster U of G’s already strong reputation for ingenuity and inventiveness in agri-food, said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).
“The University of Guelph’s expertise and strength in agri-food innovation is unmatched,” Campbell said.
“Our researchers have bold, ambitious ideas, and their work addresses gaps and helps solve problems while shaping the future of food and agriculture in Canada and beyond. They also promote industry collaboration and accelerating growth in the thriving agri-food sector.”
Campbell added that U of G’s innovation activities and goals “align, illustrate and enhance the incredible agri-food innovation supercluster that is Canada’s food nexus.” U of G is part of this collaboration of private sector firms, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.
“The shared goal is fostering a culture of innovation and economic development in the agri-food sector, and positioning Canada as a world leader in food,” Campbell said.
Accelerator Guelph will help move such ideas to market, Campbell said. Modelled after some of the world’s top accelerator programs, its four-phase program will mentor U of G agri-food entrepreneurs with business planning, executive leadership training, financial and accounting expertise, and human resources management.
Accelerator Guelph will complement the successful Gryphon’s LAAIR (Leading to Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research) program, in which U of G researchers pitch creative ideas for research commercialization to a panel of industry leaders. Winners receive up to $125,000 to support their proposals, and receive assistance from industry collaborators in Ontario’s agri-food and rural sectors.
This year, 15 projects will receive funding under the Gryphon’s LAAIR program. The winners were also announced today and highlighted during the innovation showcase.
Engineering professor Michele Oliver heads a team developing a cost-effective seat cushion to reduce seat vibration in farming machinery. Mobile agricultural equipment is used in virtually all Ontario farms, but its use exposes the operator to whole-body vibration levels that can harm health. Oliver’s invention will lead to cost savings and improved health for operators.
Blockchain technology can help trace products through the food supply-chain, but using blockchain for food traceability faces a number of challenges. Computer science professor Rozita Dara and a team are looking at soybean traceability using blockchain, developing processes to collect, analyze and store data on soybeans while also understanding the legislative and stakeholder context.
Researchers in U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC) made the world’s first compostable coffee pods and are now pursuing new innovations. Prof. Manjusri Misra is developing products for the greenhouse industry that will reduce manual labour in growing tomatoes and other crops. Prof. Amar Mohanty is investigating the use of low-value agricultural residues to develop lightweight biocomposite products for the automotive industry.
“The diversity of these projects is a testament to the breadth and depth of our expertise in agri-food,” Campbell said. “They will help expand the commercial and societal impact of U of G innovations.”
Gryphon’s LAAIR is funded through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – U of G partnership and Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.