Universities are well-known as centres for research and innovation, attracting both faculty and students based on the depth, breadth and qualities of their research enterprises.
First-ever women elected to Grain Farmers of Ontario board
Two grain farmers have become the first women elected to the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) board of directors, one…
In Ontario, the University of Guelph is a particularly significant research partner for the agriculture sector. Less well-known is that many of Ontario’s 24 colleges are also home to centres of research and innovation that are often specialized and can provide valuable and practical services to businesses and organizations.
Why it matters: Colleges focus on applied learning and take that same approach to research and innovation, often working closely with industry on projects to solve specific problems.
“We are removing barriers for the innovation that small and medium-sized businesses need to be competitive,” said Alison Ewart, dean of the Centre for Research and Innovation at Fanshawe College. “Colleges have a narrow focus on where they can be most impactful and we provide access to scientists, facilities and funding.”
Ewart spoke about the services and impact of London’s Fanshawe College during a session at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture annual meeting late last fall. The college has 40,000 students from more than 100 countries studying in more than 250 programs and has an annual economic impact in southwestern Ontario of $1.9 billion.
On the research and innovation front, Fanshawe has developed a speciality in food innovation. Its centre is the only applied research facility at Ontario’s colleges that specializes in nutritional and shelf-life testing for production development and validation. Its Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in Biotechnology helps agri-food business develop and launch new or improved food and beverage products, and the college also has a research licence from Health Canada for cannabis research.
“We can support agri-food businesses with product development, manufacturing processes, quality assurance and production testing,” Ewart noted, adding that Fanshawe can help companies access funding through sources like the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council or the Canadian Bio-Cleantech Applied Research Network.
“(Required)” indicates required fields
[RELATED] Despite good intentions, FOP labels could do more harm than good
The Mistyglen dairy farm near Belmont recently opened a processing facility on its farm and turned to Fanshawe’s research centre in its search for probiotic cultures for yogurt products, noted Ewart.
“Mistyglen Creamery came to us looking for the right probiotic cultures to create vat-produced yogurt to aid with microbiome health and making sure the culture was one they were also able to source,” she said.
Brantford-based Lignition Corporation produces biostimulants that support photosynthesis to naturally enhance crop yields. Fanshawe’s research and innovation centre helped the company optimize its seed coating to improve the distribution and consistency of its product and increase carbon capture, said Ewart.
Booch Kombucha, a brewer of organic craft kombucha in London, worked with Fanshawe to find a way to control ethanol levels throughout its brewing and fermenting processes and establish filtration levels that would keep ethanol low enough to meet regulatory standards. Kombucha is a fermented black tea drink that advocates say helps digestion and boosts the immune system.
Fleming College in Peterborough is home to three specialized research centres, including the Centre for Innovative Aquaculture Production.
“We are the surrogate R&D department for smaller businesses and industries, which is often not well-known,” says Ryan Hill, a research scientist at the centre. “We are problem solvers for industry; without having this opportunity or access to applied research, it closes doors.”
Construction of a $2.5 million research facility is underway at the college’s Frost campus in Lindsay, which will expand its capacity for aquaculture research in areas like innovative feed ingredients, facility design and optimization, novel technologies, rearing of unique species and performance improvements.
“The new hatchery in Lindsay will quadruple our research capacity in this field. There are not many – if any – research hatcheries in southern Ontario,” adds Research and School Operations Manager Marc Patenaude.
Other research and innovation centres serving the agri-food sector include the Food Innovation & Research Studio at George Brown College in Toronto, the Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology at Conestoga College in Kitchener, the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre and Horticulture and Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre at Niagara College, and the Bio-Industrial Process Research Centre at Sarnia’s Lambton College.