../Morning Post
Posted September 28 , 2010

OMAFRA Invests $10 Million in University Research

Guelph - The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is investing more than $10 million in research at the University of Guelph and partnering universities. The funding will support 72 projects across the agri-food spectrum, from developing avian flu vaccines to studying the rural labour market to finding alternatives to pesticides.

The grants are part of U of G’s renewed partnership with OMAFRA. They involve researchers at the University’s Guelph, Ridgetown and Kemptville campuses, Laboratory Services, the University’s 13 research stations and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

“Research is a key contributor to the success of Ontario’s agri-food sector, the strength of our rural communities and the protection of our environment,” said Carol Mitchell, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “The McGuinty government is pleased to provide funding to the University of Guelph to help support these innovative projects and invest in our province’s future.”

Prof. Rich Moccia, U of G’s associate vice-president (research), said support from OMAFRA continues to be crucial to the University’s ability to engage in explorations and discoveries that will make a real difference in the lives of Canadians.

“This investment will allow us to engage researchers at other universities and foster innovations and breakthroughs that will better protect our health, the economy and the environment,” he said.

Moccia cited several examples of research funding in action, including:

* Guelph pathobiology professor Shayan Sharif will use his $230,000 grant to develop new ways of fighting the avian influenza virus in chickens. He and his research team plan to study its pathogenesis, transmission and immunity, and develop vaccines to control the virus in poultry flocks and disrupt its transmission to humans.

* Business professor Sara Mann is teaming up with researchers from Memorial University and McMaster University to assist young workers in rural Ontario. She will use her nearly $80,000 grant to conduct interviews, surveys and workshops, and provide recommendations for building a skilled labour force.

* Finding environmentally friendly alternatives to pesticides is the goal of environmental sciences professor Paul Goodwin and Cheryl Trueman of Ridgetown Campus. They plan to use their $70,000 grant to develop a practical tool to control disease by inducing a plant’s natural resistance mechanisms.

* Marketing and consumer studies professors Lefa Teng and Timothy Dewhirst have joined forces to help Ontario’s icewine industry via a $155,000 grant. The goal is to improve marketing and branding strategies, and increase revenue and international competitiveness.

Moccia said the agriculture sector is vital to the health and prosperity of Ontario. It’s the second-largest industry, contributing $30 billion to the province's economy and employing more than 700,000 people.

“Ontario’s agri-food needs could not be met without the expertise, physical capacity and product development provided via the University-OMAFRA partnership,” he said.

U of G and OMAFRA first entered into an enhanced partnership agreement in 1997, and it was renewed in 2008 for another 10 years. The partnership has garnered tremendous social, economic, environmental and health benefits for the industry and province, with an annual economic impact that exceeds $1.15 billion.

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