The Government of Canada is invested in agriculture and agri-food innovation, and for good reason. With thousands of businesses engaged in the production of food from coast to coast, staying ahead of challenges and providing new competitive advantages positively impacts the success and well-being of farmers, food manufacturers, and all Canadians.
One of the main ways the federal government contributes to agricultural success is by operating research and development centres. These agriculture research centres, located across the country, routinely perform innovative projects that have a direct impact on the success of food producers and processors. While staff researchers complete projects independently and publish their findings through the government, industry research partners can also use these centres to complete innovative projects.
Canadian agriculture and agri-food businesses should consider tapping into the financial and knowledge-based resources offered at agri research centres.
For businesses interested in using agri research centres, the key to success is understanding where to take your project and how to access government funding to offset costs. There are two key government funding programs that can reduce the costs of completing collaborative agriculture research projects, including AgriInnovate and AgriScience. This guide will help you tap into these incentives to offset your collaborative research project expenses.
Agricultural Research Priorities for Canadian Businesses
The history of agriculture research centres in Canada dates back to 1821 when the Selkirk settlement (present day Winnipeg) established an experimental dairy farm. Years later, other experimental facilities were created to demonstrate new agricultural equipment and refine livestock production methods. Agriculture research centres have played a key role in Canada becoming an agricultural innovator and continue to be a significant factor in our highly successful industry.
Today, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) provides leadership over the development and maintenance of agricultural research centres across the country. AAFC guides industry research through several strategic objectives and areas of focus. These are central to how research centres operate and how funding is distributed.
There are four strategic objectives that fuel agricultural research in Canada. They include:
- Increasing agricultural productivity;
- Enhancing environmental performance;
- Improving attributes for food and non-food uses; and
- Addressing threats to the value chain.
Areas of Focus
Similarly, there are nine areas of focus the government uses to ensure all agriculture and agri-food sectors are managed. These include:
- Cereals and pulses;
- Forages and beef;
- Dairy, pork, poultry, and other livestock;
- Biodiversity and bioresources; and
- Agro-ecosystem productivity and health.
When determining how the government should support the agriculture and agri-food industry, strategic objectives are applied to each focus area to better understand opportunities and threats. Each focus area needs to excel in the four strategic objectives to be globally competitive and sustainable.
There are often opportunities to perform cutting-edge research in these focus areas, with the outcome of research supporting one or more strategic objectives. Government researchers routinely complete innovative projects in these areas, and industry can participate to further accelerate research and drive benefits for their own businesses.
Canadian Agriculture Research Centres (by Province)
Explore the following list of agricultural research centres located across Canada. To learn more about any of the centres, click the link provided and you’ll be taken to the research centre’s main website.
Ontario is home to six of Canada’s top agriculture research and innovation centres. They include:
- Guelph Research and Development Centre: Guelph has a significant concentration of expertise and infrastructures dedicated to food research and development. Its Research and Development Centre specialties include addressing food safety threats and mitigation strategies and improving agricultural commodity attributes through innovation.
- Harrow Research and Development Centre: Harrow maintains one of the largest greenhouse research complex facilities in North America while also managing two field sites, one on sandy soils and a second on clay-loam soils. Its research specialties include soybean and invasive species, greenhouse production systems, environmentally sustainable agro-ecosystems for full-season crops in Great Lakes watershed, and crop production/protection systems.
- London Research and Development Centre: Established in 1951, the London R&D Centre and satellite research centre, the Vineland Research farm, primarily focus its research on crop genomics, bioproducts, and biopesticides, protection and improvement of fruit and vegetable crops, and soil/water quality.
- Pest Management Centre: Located in Ottawa, the Pest Management Centre focuses on crop protection by identifying critical weed, insect, and disease pest problems and matching them with potential solutions. Research activities include pesticide experimentation, in addition to non-chemical control options such as biopesticides and farm management practices that integrate tillage, crop rotation, cultivar resistance, seed selection, balanced fertility, and sanitation.
- Ottawa Research and Development Centre: As one of the original five experimental farms established by the Government of Canada in 1886, the Ottawa R&D Centre focuses its research in crop genetic enhancement and genomics, biodiversity of vascular plant, fungi and bacteria, and invertebrates, and integrated assessment of long-term environmental effects of agricultural practices.
- Lacombe Research and Development Centre: Established in 1907, the Lacombe R&D Centre serves one of the most dense and diverse livestock production regions in Canada. Its research focuses on integrated meat science and production systems, microbiological safety and storage stability of meat, and northern/Parkland agriculture focusing on integrated crop, forage, pest, and honey bee management.
- Lethbridge Research and Development Centre: Established in 1906, the Lethbridge R&D Centre is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s largest facilities. It conducts research in seven key areas, including agro-ecosystem resilience, cereals, dairy, pork, poultry and other livestock, forages and beef, horticulture, oilseeds, and pulses.
- Agassiz Research and Development Centre: Since 1886, the Agassiz R&D Centre has focused on horticultural and field crop production and protection. Its research mainly focuses on peri-urban agriculture, including the flows, interactions, and impacts of agriculture systems within densely populated regions.
- Summerland Research and Development Centre: Established in 1914, the Summerland R&D Centre is in a semi-arid climate that is Canada’s most water-challenged, yet most biologically diverse region. Its research is focused on building resilient and profitable horticultural production systems.
- Brandon Research and Development Centre: One of five experimental farms operating since 1886, the Brandon R&D Centre and its three satellite locations provide research in two key areas including sustainable/profitable agri-systems and agro-ecosystem productivity and health for the prairie climate, and cereal germplasm enhancement.
- Morden Research and Development Centre: The Morden R&D Centre provides a wide range of innovation services, including research in cereal diseases, cereal germplasm and genomics, flax and eastern prairie pulse crop germplasm, human nutrition, food health attributes, and functional foods, bioprospection from bioresources, and grain/grain products storage.
- Fredericton Research and Development Centre: As the only federally-run agriculture research and development centre in New Brunswick, the Fredericton R&D Centre primarily focuses on potatoes, including potato agro-ecosystem bioecology, potato germplasm enhancement, and enhancing the environmental performance of potato production systems.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- John’s Research and Development Centre: Established in 1935, the St. John’s R&D Centre provides research support in two key areas, including primary production agriculture with a focus on berries suitable for boreal ecosystem production and cereal crops that support the regional dairy value chain.
- Kentville Research and Development Centre: The Kentville R&D Centre is a Minor Use Pesticide Program site and is accountable for AAFC’s only beef research program in Atlantic Canada. Its research focuses on three core areas, including primary production and integrated crop production technology, food safety and quality, and environmental stewardship.
Prince Edward Island
- Charlottetown Research and Development Centre: Opened in 1909, the Charlottetown R&D Centre focuses its research in integrated crop production systems and agricultural diversification, bio-based products and processes from bioresources in existing and emerging crops, and environmental sustainability/improved performance of the agricultural production system.
- Quebec Research and Development Centre: Located in Quebec City, the Quebec R&D Centre provides research capabilities for perennial crop production systems and bioproducts, and the environmental performance of perennial/short-season crops and cropping systems.
- Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre: The Saint-Hyacinthe R&D Centre focuses on preserving food and maintaining its quality, safe and efficient food processing, and the health benefits of food ingredients beyond basic nutritional values.
- Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Research and Development Centre: Established in 1912, the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu R&D Centre researches horticultural crop protection with a focus on biovigilance and precision horticulture. It also participates in the Minor Use Pesticides Program, which aims to minimize the impact of the agricultural industry on the environment, while improving the pre/post-harvest quality of crops.
- Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre: The Sherbrooke R&D Centre is the only federally-run research centre that specializes in innovative research for Canada’s dairy and swine industries. Its research focuses on environmental sustainability, dairy and swine production systems, and dairy and swine health/welfare.
- Saskatoon Research and Development Centre: Located in the heart of the Prairies, the Saskatoon R&D Centre conducts crop research, including integrated/sustainable agriculture, sustainable management of clubroot on canola, integrated strategies for genetic improvement of oilseed, legume, and forage crops, genetic resource conservation, characterization, and utilization, and bioproducts/bioresources.
- Swift Current Research and Development Centre: Founded in 1920, the Swift Current R&D Centre addresses severe drought, erosion, frost, pests, and crop disease-related problems.
Canadian Government Funding for Agriculture Research Projects
Conducting your innovative agricultural research project with one of the above R&D centres can help greatly accelerate the project and lead to better, more commercially viable outcomes. While it’s possible to conduct research projects at these facilities without government support, using government funding programs further improves the benefits associated with accessing research support. Two programs that can help reduce agriculture and agri-food research costs include:
AgriInnovate helps businesses commercialize and/or adopt innovative agri-based products, technologies, processes, or services. It offers 0% interest non-secured loans with a repayment period of up to 10 years starting once a project is complete. Companies can use the program to refine their innovative agri technology concepts and bring them closer to commercial readiness.
Companies accessing AgriInnovate funding receive up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum $10 million in repayable funding.
Because the nature of AgriInnovate is demonstration and commercialization of near market-ready technologies, companies should approach an agri research and development centre with a product or process that is not available on the market and would, if adopted, lead to significant benefits to the industry.
AgriScience helps businesses perform pre-commercial research and development projects, either independently or as part of an innovation cluster. The program can offer research grants and support from AAFC scientists that work collaboratively on your project to advance its commercial readiness.
Through the AgriScience program, companies can access up to 50% of project costs to a maximum $5 million in non-repayable contributions (government grants) per project.
The program’s five key industry and government priorities are easily linked back to AAFC research and development centres, including improving support for minor commodities, emerging, and transformative areas, investing in discovery and applied science for major commodity sectors, enhancing efforts in clean growth, environment, and climate change, accelerating growth of Canada’s food and beverage processing or value-added sector, and strengthening knowledge transfer and adoption.
Resources to Support the Growth of Ontario Agriculture and Agri-Food Companies
Agricultural research and development is one area of business growth that companies in the sector should devote time and resources towards. There are several others, however, including hiring and training, technology adoption, and overall business expansion projects that should be considered to optimize growth potential.
Mentor Works has developed a resource to support the growth of Ontario-based agricultural businesses in these four key areas, which companies can access for free. Download the Ontario Agri-Business Growth Guide for more resources to fuel your success.