Applications are now open. You have until 14:00 hrs EST on October 29, 2021 to apply.


The Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative is a grant that helps eligible organizations fund agri-food research projects. Research questions and priorities may change on an annual basis to address opportunities and challenges facing the agri-food sector and rural communities.

This year there are three streams of funding, each with differing requirements. Each research stream below has a description of the research questions or priorities associated to help guide applicants through proposal development.

Applicants must identify a specific priority area and focus area (Stream A - Knowledge Mobilization) or research question (Stream B - Research Synthesis).  This is required step   when applying online using the Research Management System (RMS).

Proposals must be within scope and address one of the required priority areas or research questions.

Learn more about the initiative including whether you are eligible and how to apply.

Stream A: Knowledge Mobilization

To be eligible for this stream, proposals must align with:

  • one research priority
  • one focus area (under the corresponding research priority)

Research priority: food safety

Focus areas: detection and surveillance, pathway analysis, prevention & control, validation of detection methods, climate change resiliency, innovative/disruptive technology development, performance measurement, emergency management.

Research priority: animal health & welfare

Focus areas: development of best management practices (BMP), emerging pathogens and pests, health, welfare and productivity of young animals, prevention & control of pathogens.

Research priority: plant health & protection

Focus areas: biology of current & emerging pests, climate change resiliency, innovative/disruptive technology development, integrated pest management.

Research priority: soil health

Focus areas: baseline soil health information, environmental impacts of management practices.

Research priority: water quality and quantity

Focus areas: analysis of BMP adoption, BMP development, environmental impact of management practices.

Research priority: sustainable production systems

Focus areas: analysis of BMP adoption, analysis of BMP adoption, climate change resiliency, environmental impact of agriculture production, environmental impact of agriculture production.

Research priority: productive land capacity

Focus area: evidence to support land use policies.

Research priority: competitive production systems

Focus areas: improved management processes, innovative/disruptive technology development, input use efficiency, labour access/efficiencies, performance measurement.

Research priority: innovative products & product improvements

Focus areas: innovative/disruptive technology development, new product development, product enhancement.

Research priority: trade market & targeted sector growth opportunities

Focus areas: domestic market analysis, global market analysis, targeted sector growth.

Stream B: Research Synthesis

To be eligible for funding, proposals must align with one of the following seven research questions.

Each question has an associated focus area that you will need to note and record in your application.

Overarching outcomes: Evaluate the state of knowledge and research needs in similar jurisdictions to Ontario that aligns with this research question. 

The minimum expected deliverables of a research synthesis project include both:

  • a synthesis document: identifies research needs, knowledge gaps, and recommended options. Includes an exhaustive list of the resources utilized in the evaluation of the state of knowledge (for example, list of publications from a literature review, phone interviews with selected agency staff, internet searches, workshop materials etc.).
  • a communication plan: identifies how the synthesis document and information will be shared with a broad network of users (for example, organizations and members of the intended audience). At a minimum, must include a presentation/workshop that can be virtual).

Research priority: plant health and protection

Focus area: pathway analysis

OMAFRA contact: Anna Formusiak

RIB ID: 2019.084

Research question: How can plant health biosecurity risks associated with distribution channels be mitigated?

Rationale for research and benefit: Knowledge is required to better understand distribution channels, spatial separation of imports (or packing sheds) and local production to reduce the infection of plant pests.

Research priority: water quantity and quality

Focus area: BMP development

OMAFRA contact: Rajib Hazarika

RIB ID: 2019.045

Research questions: Stormwater management on farm - What opportunities exist to collect and manage stormwater on-farm? How can this water be improved for quality and quantity management? What are the benefits and costs to using stormwater in agricultural applications (for example, irrigation, livestock water) or rural applications (for example, drinking water, firefighting)?

Rationale for research and benefit: Farms have potential to collect and store large amounts of stormwater, which could be repurposed for other uses (for example, irrigation, firefighting, livestock watering, drinking water).  There is a potential opportunity to utilize this water to improve water infrastructure delivery in rural areas.

Research priority: sustainable production systems

Focus area: analysis of BMP development

OMAFRA contact: Elin Gwyn

RIB ID: 2019.013

Research question: What are the most cost-effective best management practices (BMPs) for achieving improved soil health in crop production systems?

Rationale for research and benefit: Crop producers want to improve soil health and want to know how to prioritize their on-farm actions to do so. However, they also want a clear idea of costs and benefits.

Focus area: analysis of BMP development

OMAFRA contact: Elin Gwyn

RIB ID: 2019.019

Research question: How can landowners, who do not participate in environmental stewardship programs, be engaged to improve the environmental stewardship of their lands?

Rationale for research and benefit: How do we encourage new entrants to agri-environmental programs? What do we know about those who have never or seldom participated in government or other agri-environmental programs? What are the tools, information and communication tactics and strategies to reach producers who have never shown any interest in these programs?

Research priority: competitive production systems

Focus area: emergency management

OMAFRA contact: Robin Smart

RIB ID:  2020.097

Research questions: The rapid rise of e-commerce resulting from shifting consumer preferences and demand for agri-food products (for example, increased home cooking, reduced restaurant/food service demand, shift in meat consumption) has highlighted key supply chain weaknesses (for example, retail vs. wholesale distribution channels, bulk vs. consumer packaging). How can consumer preferences be expected to continue to evolve post-pandemic? How can Ontario’s agri-food supply chain become more resilient while also meeting consumer demand?                                                            

Rationale for research and benefit: The pandemic resulted in closures of many food service establishments and shifts to takeout/delivery only. Consumers moved to increased meals at home and home cooking, with reduced reliance on food service establishments. Products with high use in food service experienced significant sharp decrease in demand (for example, bacon, potatoes). Supply chain challenges prevented some products from being redirected to the consumer supply chain due to packaging and distribution limitations (for example, bulk packaging not suitable/practical for retail). Consumer preferences for certain products in home cooking may be different than in food service establishments.  Increased flexibility in the agri-food production system and distribution supply chains to rapidly respond to shifting consumer preferences and market demands more effectively will contribute to a stronger and more secure food supply.

Focus area: innovative/disruptive technology development

OMAFRA contact: Robin Smart

RIB ID: 2020.037

Research question: How can the identification of new technologies and strategies to mitigate weather risks in apples, tender fruit, grapes, and berries help with climate change adaptation?

Rationale for research and benefit: Climate change is resulting in more irregular weather and increased risks of frost, winter injury, sun burn and drought. The fruit industries in Ontario are all vulnerable to weather risks and need access to tools (for example, frost/hail prediction models, integrated weather stations, efficient irrigation systems, crop thinning models) to assist with climate change adaptation strategies.

Focus area: labour access/efficiencies

OMAFRA contact: Robin Smart

RIB ID: 2020.027

Research questions: As unmet labour demands increase, the need to understand new labour motivations increases. What attracts newcomers into the agri-food sector and supports their retention? What policy and programs exist that focus on recruiting, developing skills, and provide community supports? How can Ontario’s programs and policies be improved, based on the statistics of newcomers that enter the province with an agricultural background who face barriers to working in agriculture?

Rationale for research and benefit: Newcomers are a sector of the populace who could help with labour gaps in our sector. The ministry needs to understand what government levers (policies and programs) currently exist that supports newcomers working in the agri-food sector (attraction and retention). In addition, it is important to understand how many newcomers come to Ontario seeking careers in agriculture, but face barriers to doing so.

Stream C: commercialization

The Commercialization stream is delivered by Bioenterprise, a national, non-profit business accelerator that offers commercialization expertise in supporting businesses in the agricultural technology sector.

Learn more about this stream via Bioenterprise, including program guidelines and instruction to apply.

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