A unique master’s program that will train the next wave of sustainability leaders in the global agricultural sector will soon launch at the University of Guelph. 

The new interdisciplinary master of sustainable agriculture (MSAg) from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) will equip students with the latest advancements and skills in sustainable agriculture, data analysis and agri-tech innovations through graduate-level course work. The first cohort of the program will commence in the summer of 2025. 

During the 16-month program, students focus their studies in either plant agriculture, livestock agriculture, or environmental sciences. The course-based program provides a broad exploration of the various facets of the agriculture sector and how to mitigate its impact on the environment. 

Flexible course offerings and professional development opportunities allow students to customize their studies to match their career aspirations. Students can choose social science courses in agricultural economics, change communication and leadership to give them a broad perspective of sustainability and how to drive change in the sector. 

Advanced training in sustainable agriculture practices

A major component of the program is focused on experiential learning, including hands-on field courses and site visits to major agricultural operations throughout Ontario. 

A unique internship will provide students the opportunity to work on projects for agricultural organizations to help bolster their sustainability efforts.  

“OAC’s strong focus on experiential learning and partnerships with agricultural organizations provide students with real-world, career-focused experiences,” says OAC acting dean John Cranfield. “Students will have many opportunities to connect with potential employers in the agricultural sector, acting as a launching pad for their career.” 

Students begin their program at U of G’s Ridgetown Campus, near London Ont. – a region of critical importance to Ontario’s agricultural sector. During this semester, students will live in residence, complete field courses, visit agricultural operations and immerse themselves in the campus’s unique rural community. 

After their semester at Ridgetown, students transition to the Guelph campus to finish the remainder of their courses.  

Addressing skills gap in agricultural sector 

The skills and training that graduates receive in this new master’s will help build a more sustainable Canadian agricultural sector, says Cranfield. 

“Equipping students with comprehensive knowledge and advanced training in sustainable agriculture practices is critical to the health and longevity of the sector.” 

Approximately 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production. As Canadian food producers transition some traditional tasks to smart machines and focus on strategy and systems, the need for new skills in data analysis, communications and sustainability leadership have become even more critical, says Nevin McDougall, managing partner of RHA Ventures Inc. 

“It’s clear that consumers of our industry are demanding that more sustainable production practices be developed and implemented,” says McDougall. “This new program will help develop future professionals who possess the skills necessary to address this opportunity.” 

An OAC alumnus, McDougall spent several years leading the commercial operations for BASF’s Agricultural Products business in North America and the Asia Pacific region. 

Students interested in the master of sustainable agriculture are encouraged to contact the OAC admissions team. Prospective students are advised that the program is still subject to formal approval by the Ontario Universities’ Council on Quality Assurance.