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Canada invests in world-leading climate-smart agriculture and food systems through genomics

Group photo of VIPs at ICT announcement in Montreal, Quebec.
The ICTs were announced this morning at la Centrale Agricole in Montreal, the largest urban agriculture cooperative in Quebec, featuring TriCycle, a local start-up using genomics to reduce urban food waste.

Canadian genomics research is generating new solutions to global challenges like climate change, public health and food security. Canada has developed world-class strength in this revolutionary science and major economic sector through more than 20 years of investment. 

Today, the Honourable Greg Fergus, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Treasury Board, announced nine new Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams (ICTs) made up of researchers from across disciplines, whose projects will translate genomics research and innovation into sustainable solutions supporting Canadian producers and a resilient national food system and supply chains. 

Watch the ICT launch | Explore the new ICTs 


The ICTs are a core component of the Genome Canada-led Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems initiative (CSAFS), launched in May 2022, that will reduce the carbon footprint of Canada’s food production systems by building their resiliency, environmental sustainability and economic growth potential. Importantly, the CSAFS portfolio of ICTs will be supported by Data Hub and a Knowledge Mobilization Hub to connect efforts across projects and maximize the portfolio’s national impact.  

With an almost $27 million investment in the ICTs from the Government of Canada and an additional $42 million in investment from co-funding partners, today’s announcement represents a total investment of nearly $70 million in a more sustainable future for Canadian agriculture and food systems.



Resilient and sustainble food systems

Building resilient, sustainable food systems that reduce environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions.

Net-zero carbon agriculture and food systems

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprints of food production and inputs manufacturing.

Biological carbon sequestration

Enhancing carbon sequestration to improve performance, mitigate climate impacts and support healthy ecosystems.

Scalable biology-based solutions

Resulting in novel, nature-based solutions and processes that can replace traditional consumptive production processes with sustainable and circular solutions for the environment and economy.


The ICTs will bring researchers together with companies, producers, government partners and diverse communities together to advance climate change mitigation.

  • Emerging agri-genomic technologies are profoundly changing Canada’s food systems. This project will generate guidelines and resources to promote inclusivity, address social equity concerns for marginalized communities and enable a just transition to new technologies for all. Led by Stefania Pizzirani (University of the Fraser Valley) and Robert Newell (Royal Roads University) | Funded through Genome BC and Ontario Genomics
  • Enhance soil carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the agricultural sector through combined genomic technologies and grassland/rangeland management. Led by James Cahill (University of Alberta) and Carolyn Fitzsimmons (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/University of Alberta) | Funded through Genome Alberta
  • Develop higher quality climate-resilient field pea crops—a high-protein, low-nitrogen and higher-value alternative to wheat and canola—to help meet global food demand and contribute to Canadian exports and economic development while reducing the carbon footprint of our agricultural sector. Led by Marcus A. Samuel (University of Calgary) and Sateesh Kagale (National Research Council Canada) | Funded through Genome Alberta and Genome Prairie
  • Support increased native species and genetic diversity in Canada’s grasslands in partnership with producer groups, NGOs and First Nations—harnessing grasslands’ capacity to sequester large amounts of carbon and stably store it in the soil, enhancing carbon storage. Led by Jonathan Bennett (University of Saskatchewan) and Sean Asselin (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/Swift Current Research and Development Centre) | Funded through Genome Prairie
  • Reduce synthetic fertilizer use and resulting N2O GHG emissions through innovative genomic breeding strategies and development of new climate-resilient and efficient wheat and lentil crop varieties, saving Canadian agricultural producers upwards of $1B in fertilizer costs over the next two decades. Led by Kirstin Bett and Curtis Pozniak (University of Saskatchewan) | Funded through Genome Prairie
  • Support a more resilient domestic food system by harnessing microbial inoculants—produced by microbes found in Canadian soils—as an alternative to industrially produced and chemical fertilizers for agriculture, with the potential to significantly reduce Canadian GHG emissions from wheat, barley canola and dry bean production. Led by Ivan Oresnik (University of Manitoba) and George diCenzo (Queen’s University) | Funded through Genome Prairie and Ontario Genomics
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of local agrifood waste—leveraging genomics to mitigate GHGs by using composting, mushrooms and edible insects’ bioreactors to transform urban agri-food wastes into food or fertilizers. Led by Joan Laur (Université de Montréal), Louise Hénault-Ethier (INRS) | Funded through Génome Québec
  • Harness genomics to achieve a net-zero future for Canada’s dairy industry—and our Dairy Net-Zero Pledge by 2050—by delivering a science-driven mitigation roadmap for GHG management in dairy production. Led by Christine Baes, Filippo Miglior (University of Guelph), Rachel Gervais (Université Laval) and Paul Stothard (University of Alberta) | Funded through Ontario Genomics, Génome Québec, Genome Alberta
  • Develop scalable production of cultivated meat—using omics guided technologies to meet demand for dietary protein that is growing with the global population. Led by P. Ravi Selvaganapathy (McMaster University), Julie Audet (University of Toronto), Michael von Massow (University of Guelph), Michelle Bamji-Mirza (Collège La Cité) | Funded through Ontario Genomics


“Genomics is driving innovation across many strategic economic sectors in Canada, from agriculture and energy to fisheries and forestry. The Government of Canada is proud to support these Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams, which are building resilience in Canada’s food production systems, creating more secure and sustainable food for Canadians and people around the world.”
The Honourable Greg Fergus, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Treasury Board

 “Genomics technologies have produced some of the most impressive scientific breakthroughs of the past two decades, and it just keeps going thanks to the leadership of our researchers. Our government is proud to support the nine teams announced today, as they are another great example of Canada’s role as a world leader in this field. Their expertise will help bring us forward in reducing the carbon footprint of Canada’s food production systems while continuing to develop innovation.” 
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

 “Cutting-edge genomics research like this will allow Canadian farmers to play an even bigger role in the global transition to sustainable agriculture. From creating new varieties of crops that are able to withstand the impacts of climate change, to turning food and agricultural waste into new value-added products, genomics is opening up new green opportunities for farmers.”
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“Genome Canada is proud to drive solutions to the climate crisis and Canada’s leadership on this major global challenge. By harnessing the power of genomics, and the strengths of diverse researchers, institutions, companies and communities, the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems initiative will support vital transformation across one of the most important sectors for Canada’s economy, our health and wellbeing.”
–  Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada

“To fight against waste and greenhouse gas emissions, we need to better manage food residues. Our research project aims to optimize the transformation processes of organic waste by microorganisms in nature-inspired bioreactors. This work will contribute to finding concrete solutions to the climate crisis.”
– Joan Laur, Assistant professor, University of Montréal, researcher, Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Botanist and researcher, Montreal Botanical Garden (Espace pour la vie) and Louise Hénault-Éthier, Associate Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Director of the Centre Eau Terre Environnement and R&D and Innovation Director, TriCycle Inc.

“By using genomics in plants and animals, we can find solutions to increase production, reduce losses and improve the sustainability of our agriculture and food systems. Génome Québec is proud to award $2.9 million to support multidisciplinary and partnership-based genomics research. The knowledge and innovations generated will contribute to build resilient climate smart communities.”
Josette-Renée Landry, President and CEO, Génome Québec


Different coloured people icons in a circle showing connectedness

The Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams make up the first of three programs launched through the Genome Canada’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative. Federal investment in this initiative comes from a $136.7 million investment announced in Budget 2021 for Genome Canada and its mission-driven research to kickstart a new Canadian Genomics Strategy. The Strategy will build on Canada’s track record of genomics excellence to drive world-leading bioscience research and innovation as other countries intensify their investments in this space.

Impact-driven Canadian research and innovation

Climate change poses a major threat to our agricultural systems, affecting the availability of food and other vital resources—from fuels to the raw materials used to develop everyday food products. The Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems initiative will tackle this national challenge through a unique portfolio approach to investment, connecting the nine new Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams announced and maximizing their impact through:  

Intertwined strands of DNA with arrows pointing out at the end

A Data Hub enabling the ICTs to share valuable data assets with each other, and with academic, government and industry initiatives. This will be Canada’s first national agricultural and agri-food genomics data hub for climate action.

Multiple multi-coloured arrows inside a circle all pointing in different directions

A new Knowledge Mobilization Hub that will help get genomics solutions into the hands of those who will actually use them by sharing the vast knowledge generated by the ICTs across the teams and with communities, producers, companies, consumers, government agencies and other users.


Genome Canada and the six regional Genome Centres are committed to mobilizing genomics science and technology to support Canada’s national goals for sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. Read our policy submission on Canada’s Sustainable Agriculture Strategy.

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