University of Guelph

Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet

We share this planet with millions of species. A few feed us directly, while others are central to our planetary ecosystem. Population growth places us in conflict with the natural world, threatening major declines in global biodiversity. The grand challenge is to develop systems that are capable of meeting the rising human demand for food while being resilient to climate change, and able to sustain healthy ecosystems, economies, and populations.

Food from Thought will allow the University of Guelph to become the global leader in this field. It will do so by integrating existing strengths—such as the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, and Canada’s largest network of agriculture and food research facilities—to support a unified scientific vision::

  • to transform our understanding of the ecosystems we depend on for food, at scales that range from planetary to microcosmic; and
  • to increase the capacity, sustainability and safety of food production systems, without undermining environmental health, ecosystem services, or livestock health and welfare.

The theme that ties these objectives together is the effort to move the study of each scale of ecosystem into the world of big data, by employing sensors that gather information in unprecedented volumes, and by developing the capacity to analyze, preserve and curate data.

In meeting this vision, Food from Thought aligns with the Government of Canada’s first science and technology priority on the environment and agriculture, which highlights the importance of food and food systems research. It also aligns with the fourth priority, on communications technologies.

To realize its vision of a data-driven approach to managing ecosystems important for food, Food from Thought will work towards three distinct missions:

  • Transform agriculture’s impact on biodiversity at the global scale.
  • Sustainably intensify food production at the landscape scale.
  • Enhance food safety and livestock health at the microscale.