Applied research steps up to support northeastern Ontario’s agri-food sector
A positive impact has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic in Northeastern Ontario: the demand for locally-sourced food products has greatly increased. This clearly represents an opportunity for agri-food businesses, but meeting the demand also comes with many challenges.
This realization has led to a new collaborative project involving Collège Boréal, the University of Guelph and agri-food sector organizations represented by the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN), the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) and the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council.
Understanding the Impact and Mitigation Strategies of the COVID-19 Outbreak on the Agricultural Sector in Northeastern Ontario is an applied research project that aims to quickly identify the emerging needs of agri-food businesses in Northeastern Ontario in order to help these organizations to adapt their role in supporting the sector. This project stems from the College and Community Innovation Program – Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Before and after the pandemic
Initially, the partners will work with producers to understand the issues brought about by the COVID crisis and apply new practices to provide adequate support to production, distribution and marketing activities, while also preventing the risk of shortages in future pandemics.
In the second phase, the longer term focus will be to develop recommendations and marketing strategies for agri-food businesses to ensure continued economic durability and food security in the post-pandemic period.
A map is now online
One strategy which has already been implemented is an interactive map produced by the University of Guelph which lists agri-food products offered by local producers. This tool, which is already accessible online, allows consumers to clearly identify options in their vicinity that often are not well known due to a lack of advertising and marketing.
Over the coming weeks and months, more initiatives will emerge to bolster the high potential for growth in Northeastern Ontario’s agri-food sector.
“This wonderful project stems from the heightened interest in local food products that we witnessed during the current public health crisis. We saw that northern producers are coming up with innovative ways to facilitate access to their products, but that much more could still be done. That is why we are conducting applied research to foster innovation in a vitally important sector that concerns everyone.”
Robin Craig, Director, Recherche & Innovation Boréal
“The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing northern producers and processors to adapt operations to respond to market demand. The RAIN and its project partners aim to uncover successful strategies for adaptation as well as recovery for the agri-food sector through this project.”
David Thompson, Manager, RAIN
“NOFIA is pleased to partner with Collège Boréal on this initiative. By understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on the north's agricultural sector, new opportunities for research, funding and service programs will be identified and will support development across the sector. By working together, we will help create a stronger agricultural sector across Northern Ontario.”
Emily Potter, Executive Director, Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance
“ReThink Green, and its program partner, the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council, are delighted to work with College Boreal on this applied research project. This timely initiative will increase our understanding of how northern producers have pivoted their businesses during the pandemic, and how supports can be tailored to meet their needs.”
Erica Lagios, Coordinator, Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council
“As a response to COVID-19 and potential disruptions to food supply chains in the north, we are working on a mapping database of northern producers. The goal of this map is to provide a tool to link consumers and producers, detailing their location, products and how consumers can connect. While the map is live, we are still seeking producer content from all northern districts in an effort to make the map as inclusive as possible.”
Sara Epp, Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Design & Rural Development
About Collège Boréal
Established in 1995, Collège Boréal is a French language post-secondary training and learning institution dedicated to the development and growth of communities throughout Ontario.
Collège Boréal offers comprehensive programs and services in seven campuses and 38 access centres located in 26 communities throughout the province. Since 1995, approximately 120,000 clients across Ontario have benefited from Collège Boréal’s expertise relating to post-secondary education, training programs, immigration and settlement services, and employment services. Collège Boréal has established over 120 articulation agreements with other post-secondary institutions.
According to the Key Performance Indicators recognized by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Collège Boréal holds the top rank in two of the five areas surveyed: graduation rate, and, for a fourth consecutive year, student satisfaction. These results are proof that investing in human capital is Boréal’s strength.
For further information:
Ronan Le Guern
Manager – Communications and Media Relations
Tel.: 416-289-5130, ext. 5172