Research: Creating your future
CEO Commentary by Mike McMorris
Each year I have the pleasure and challenge of reviewing livestock research proposals submitted for Alliance funding.
The “Alliance” is the rolling five-year agreement between Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph. The full agreement is very broad and includes fourteen research facilities, two laboratories and a veterinary capacity program. Ontario agriculture is very fortunate to have such a system in place. On top of that, the livestock sector will soon be the envy of researchers around the world with all new facilities.
Each year, University of Guelph faculty prepare amazing research proposals and the request for funds is always more than the amount available - so how do you pick those that get funded? Do you go for proposals that deal with the big sectors, the ones with potential for growth, those that have the largest industry matching funds, ones that work across sectors to gain efficiency, those with immediate impact at the farm level or those that build knowledge aimed at addressing longer term issues? How important are commercialization prospects versus practical knowledge? Has the researcher built a good team to help get research into practice (GRIP)?
Each year, it is a balance of all the above. Livestock organizations are significant contributors to this research. And yet, it is clear that OMAFRA and the industry need to contribute more to realize the full potential of the facilities and faculty we have. LRIC recently worked with Grain Farmers of Ontario and Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association to document what Alliance success looks like from an industry standpoint. This includes more industry involvement in decision-making around the Alliance, regular adjustment of Alliance funding to account for inflation, and a new approach to getting research into practice (GRIP).
Though the Alliance agreement is between OMAFRA and the University of Guelph, the livestock sector needs to be highly engaged and invested (with cash) to ensure that the research funded through the Alliance program helps to create a robust future for the livestock sector.