The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is continually evolving its research programming, recognizing that research is integral to the continued success of the agriculture and agri-food sectors, as well as rural communities.

Research and innovation are fundamental when it comes to:

  • managing and mitigating challenges such as climate change, animal disease, and the spread of pests
  • strengthening Ontario’s competitive edge and fostering economic growth and sustainability in the agri-food sector

Ontario is committed to supporting research and innovation that will keep the province’s agri-food sector strong while creating jobs, attracting investment, protecting the environment and supporting food security.

Priority development

Priorities developed by the ministry are reflective of broad sector needs, and lead to discoveries and innovations that will benefit the agriculture and food industry.

The priority development process is influenced by research needs identified through both formal and informal stakeholder engagement opportunities. We’re committed to being flexible during this process to ensure that unanticipated research needs can be captured on an as-needed basis. We’re always open to receiving stakeholder input as priorities evolve and issues arise.

We actively communicate research results to the sector in a variety of pathways, often in partnership with industry.

Research priorities

Research priority areas

Research priority areas and focus areas may differ based on the research call being issued. Read the documentation and guidelines thoroughly for the program or stream of funding you’re applying to.

Most funding program applicants must clearly demonstrate that their proposal is within the scope of OMAFRA’s research priorities and fits with 1 or more of the research questions.

The 11 established research priority areas are:

  • food safety
  • animal health and welfare
  • plant health and protection
  • soil health
  • water quality and quantity
  • sustainable production systems
  • productive land capacity
  • competitive production system
  • innovative products and product improvement
  • trade, market and targeted sector growth opportunities
  • strong rural communities

Priority and goals

Each of the 11 established research priorities have research focus areas and a set of goals.

Priority: Food safety


  • enhance public confidence in the sector
  • deliver on food safety and emergency management expectations and demands
  • anticipate, detect, mitigate and/or reduce food safety hazards along the supply chain

Focus areas:

  • detection and surveillance
  • pathway analysis
  • prevention and control
  • validation of detection methods
  • climate change resiliency
  • innovative technology development
  • performance measurement
  • emergency management

Priority: Animal health and welfare


  • enhance public confidence in the sector
  • deliver on animal health and animal welfare expectations and demands
  • anticipate, detect, mitigate and/or reduce animal health hazards and antimicrobial use along the supply chain

Focus areas:

  • development of best management practices (BMPs)
  • emerging pathogens and pests
  • health, welfare and productivity of young animals
  • prevention and control of pathogens

Priority: Plant health and protection


  • enhance public confidence in the sector
  • deliver on plant health expectations and demands
  • help strengthen the agri-food sector’s sustainability and social license through increased utilization of Integrated Pest Management and other pest mitigation strategies
  • anticipate, detect, mitigate and/or reduce plant hazards along the supply chain and improve plant resilience and resistance

Focus areas:

  • biology of current and emerging pests
  • climate change resiliency
  • innovative technology development
  • integrated pest management

Priority: Soil health


  • protect and enhance soil health and water quality
  • improve soil health and conservation to support agricultural productivity

Focus areas:

  • baseline soil health information
  • environmental impacts of management practices

Priority: Water quality and quantity


  • protect and enhance soil health and water quality
  • strengthen the agri-food sector’s sustainability and social license through improved water use and water quality

Focus areas:

  • analysis of BMP development
  • environmental impact of management practices

Priority: Sustainable production systems

Goal: Strengthen the sustainability of the agri-food sector through:

  • increased water/waste/energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • increased utilization of 4 Rs of Nutrient Stewardship

Focus areas:

  • analysis of BMP adoption
  • climate change resiliency
  • environmental impact of agriculture production

Priority: Productive land capacity

Goal: Implement land use policies that support a healthy and resilient agriculture and food industry.

Focus areas:

  • evidence to support land use policies
  • environmental impact of agricultural production
  • effectiveness of land use policies

Priority: Competitive production systems

Goal: Improve the efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of production systems through technology adoption and innovation:

  • labor-saving technology or practices
  • automation
  • waste reduction
  • recycling
  • increased water/waste/energy efficiency
  • reduced GHG emissions

Focus areas:

  • improved management processes
  • innovative technology development
  • input use efficiency
  • labour access/efficiencies
  • performance measurement

Priority: Innovative products and product development

Goals: Enhance the competitiveness, profitability and growth of the agri-food sector through new or improved products.

Focus areas:

  • innovative technology development
  • new product development
  • product enhancement

Priority: Trade, market and targeted growth opportunities


  • grow the overall agri-food sector by expanding access in domestic and international markets
  • improve the economic performance of identified priority sub-sectors such as:
    • goats
    • hazelnuts
    • aquaculture
    • greenhouse
    • maple syrup
    • processed vegetables
    • processed meats
    • baked goods
    • cannabis/hemp
  • support the production of niche and/or value-add products that have a high potential for growth

Focus areas:

  • domestic market analysis
  • global market analysis
  • targeted sector growth

Priority: Strong rural communities

Goal: Enhance the competitiveness, profitability and growth of rural communities.

Focus areas:

  • rural community development
  • reduced farmland loss
  • labour access/efficiencies

Crosscutting priorities

Our crosscutting priorities overarch the 11 main research priority areas. They include:

  • One Health opportunities
  • measuring performance
  • multi-disciplinary collaborations to address complex research needs
  • emergency management
  • developing innovative technologies and practices
  • building resiliency in rural communities and the agri-food sector, particularly where it pertains to climate change
  • promoting equity, diversity and inclusion, and finding solutions to issues faced by Indigenous partners and other equity-seeking groups