A better future together - how LRIC works for its members
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC)
The livestock industry plays a key role in the prosperity of the agriculture sector, as well as the broader provincial economy. As the world becomes more complex and intertwined, there’s a growing focus on the need for collaboration to address emerging issues in the sector through research and innovation.
Nearly a decade ago, leaders from Ontario’s livestock sector came together with government to form Livestock Research Innovation Corporation to help create and advance that collaborative approach to research and innovation.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario have always had a very strong commitment to research and recently reconfirmed their commitment to LRIC and collaborative research and innovation in the Ontario livestock sector.
“We contribute to the continuous improvement of Ontario livestock’s research and innovation systems - the funding, facilities, people and processes related to knowledge creation and the adoption of change along the supply chain,” says LRIC CEO Mike McMorris. “And we appreciate the vision of organizations like Dairy Farmers of Ontario to be partners in this process.”
LRIC is a member-service organization. One key activity is helping members with research priority setting; managing and providing support for calls for proposals, project selection and reporting requirements; and developing an annual document of cross-sectoral research priorities.
LRIC also reviews significant national and international reports of interest to livestock agriculture and provides summary highlights to its members and is constantly monitoring global developments to identify longer-term challenges and opportunities for the sector.
The organization is primarily focused on driving improvement. This means ensuring industry needs drive government research priorities, creating opportunities for collaboration and cross-sector research, and promoting more widespread adoption of research outcomes by the livestock industry.
Its other core responsibility is providing a strategic focus when it comes to research and innovation in the Ontario livestock sector.
“We identify and raise awareness of emerging issues that are affecting the industry or could do so down the road,” notes McMorris. “We also work to understand and involve the entire supply chain from production to consumers - we’re all interlinked and dependent on each other.”
To bring an international perspective to LRIC’s work, the organization recently launched its International Research Advisory Committee. Chaired by consultant and former animal health industry executive Jim White, the committee will advise the organization on issues, practices and developments across Canada and around the world related to the livestock industry value chain. All of the key elements of the livestock innovation system will be examined: funding, priorities, effective program management, commercialization and extension.
According to McMorris, it’s also important to look for insight and learning opportunities among the issues of the day to better prepare the sector for tomorrow, with COVID-19 serving as the most recent example. The dairy sector was hit with supply chain turbulence early on in the pandemic, and LRIC worked with Dairy at Guelph to host a webinar last fall on lessons learned.
“A typical final act of health emergencies is amnesia where we forget all that we just learned. We need to remember and realize that the best way to know the future is to create it,” he says.
Last year, LRIC launched a new mentorship program to build bridges between new University of Guelph research faculty and the livestock sector. An initial cohort of nine participants from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CPES) are taking part in a mixture of webinar-style and farm visit-based learning.
“Having a close working relationship between faculty and industry is key. Knowing industry issues, having the connections and speaking the industry language are foundational in being successful in their work, and ultimately, benefits industry,” says McMorris.
Key to making it all work is a forward-facing focus and a positive, proactive and professional approach to leadership, coupled with insightful communication. The vision, ultimately, notes McMorris, is for LRIC to serve as a centralized hub for livestock research, innovation, networking and mentorship - and to be a trusted intermediary between industry, government and academia to advance the needs of the sector.
This article was published in the March 2021 edition of Milk Producer.