On September 25th, 2017, Ontario Genomics, in partnership with the Synthesis Agri-Food Network and supported by Genome Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, held a workshop to discuss “The Genomics Strategy for the Ontario Agriculture and Agri-Food Sector”. Over 80 leaders from across Ontario’s diverse and strong agriculture and agri-food sector attended the event to help identify and prioritize the genomics opportunities in this important Ontario sector. Industry, research institutions, associations, producers’ groups, not-for-profits, and the provincial and federal governments were well represented.
The feedback received at the workshop will feed directly into the inclusive provincial strategy for genomics in agriculture and agri-food. This strategy will help prioritize investments by Ontario Genomics and the province in Ontario-based agriculture and agri-food genomics research and innovation and will take into account Ontario’s unique strengths and differentiation in a global market as well as national and global trends.
Keynote speaker Deb Stark, former Deputy Minister of OMAFRA, echoed the theme of the day that there are significant opportunities for genomics innovation to drive growth in Ontario’s and Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector. She also highlighted the role that Ontario, and genomics, would play in enabling the vision from the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth that “Canada will become the trusted global leader in safe, nutritious, and sustainable food for the 21st century”.
Over the past few months local, national and global experts from across the sector have been interviewed to develop an initial scan of the current forces and trends affecting the Ontario agriculture and agri-food sector and the areas of opportunity for genomics to drive innovation in the sector. Initial findings hinted at the importance of the consumer, data-driven decision making, and adaptation and mitigation of climate change. An overview of the findings was presented at the workshop and represented the backdrop for stakeholder feedback to help shape the inclusive genomics strategy for Ontario, which will be released in the coming months.
The strategy will also feed into a national strategy led by Genome Canada and the six regional Genome Centres including Ontario Genomics, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
“It is a very exciting time for genomics to drive innovation in Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector. We look forward to sharing “The Genomics Strategy for the Ontario Agriculture and Agri-Food Sector” with the agriculture and agri-food community and working together to achieve its vision,” said Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO of Ontario Genomics.
The strategy workshop was the beginning of an exciting week full of agriculture and agri-food, followed up by a tour and great discussions with the team from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. At OAFT’s 20th anniversary celebration, Deputy Minister Greg Meredith shared his vision for science and technology to be a key driver of innovation and growth in the agriculture and agri-food sector and within that, for genomics to be a force to reckon with and to embrace. Ontario Genomics was excited to host DM Meredith and ADM Randy Jackiw on Sept 29th to discuss exciting genomics projects from across the province and brainstorm about future possibilities.