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Funding aims to strengthen Canada's food production leadership

GIFS at USask receives $2.5 million in federal funds to modernize biomanufacturing in Canada.
The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan

SASKATOON – With a dramatic increase in global food insecurity caused by a number of different factors, the Government of Canada is committed more than ever to strengthening Canada’s leadership role in food production and innovation. The government is supporting agri-food, biotechnology and biomanufacturing innovations that are needed to help meet increasing demands for safe healthy food.

To support this critical economic sector, the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan, has announced funding of $2.5 million for the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to help build Canada’s only biomanufacturing facility dedicated to advancing sustainable agriculture and innovative food ingredients.   

Saskatchewan is an agricultural powerhouse containing 44 per cent of Canada’s arable farmland and home to one of the world’s strongest agri-science ecosystems, according to a USask press release. It is in a unique position to help meet market needs for agri-food and biotechnology products, and to be a leader in feeding Canadians and the world, the release states.

This investment, provided through PrairiesCan’s Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIE) program, creates an agri-food hub within an emerging Canadian network of biomanufacturing centres in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and now Saskatchewan that are bringing this technology to health care, materials science, and environment markets. This new infrastructure will help Canadian researchers and processors better compete in agri-food industries, increase the pace of research into sustainable agriculture, attract foreign investment to Canada, and supply training in this growing field of research, while creating high-quality jobs in Saskatchewan, according to USask.

“This facility at GIFS will become the engineering biology focal point for agriculture in Canada and strengthen USask’s profile for delivering advancements in agri-food and biotechnology needed to ensure global food security,” says Dr. Baljit Singh, USask vice-president research 

GIFS plays a critical role in the discovery, development, and delivery of innovative agri-food and biotechnology products that meet market demand efficiently and sustainably. This expansion will combine genomics, machine learning, and automated biology to create proteins, peptides, and metabolites. These building-block technologies can help food last longer, make plants more resistant to disease, reduce allergens, or improve nutrition in food products. 

This investment helps GIFS produce these technologies quickly, decreasing the time researchers need to test theories, and creating exponential opportunities for innovation in agriculture, agri-food and biomanufacturing, USask states. It will also improve Canada’s biomanufacturing capacity for other stakeholders in the agriculture and biotechnology sectors as the federal government expands Canada's domestic biomanufacturing sector.

“Adhering to the A, B, Cs of biomanufacturing – automation and miniaturization, biology, and computation – this unique technology platform helps reduce the time it takes to trial innovative solutions and get them to market,” says Steve Webb, CEO of GIFS.

“Once online, the platform will decrease the room for error through automating lab processes, boast a deep understanding of biological structures and processes, and add powerful computing solutions, like artificial intelligence, to rapidly scale up the design and production of more nutritious and sustainable crops and food products.”

— Submitted by USask media relations