At the Big Solutions Forum on May 20, 2021, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute brought together government and industry experts to discuss “how to build a resilient, sustainable and prosperous argi-food system for Canada”. The Forum was held to synthesize results from the year-old research program Creating Prosperity from Chaos, which originally referred to disruptions in global trade, sustainability and food security but was re-focused when the COVID 19 pandemic began.
Based on their research results, CAPI concluded the “Canadian agri-food system has great potential and capacity to contribute to sustainable food production, global food security and climate solutions while improving its competitive advantage”. Their results identified four key actions:
- Systems approach – improve coordination between all stakeholders in the agri-food system to generate strategies to maximize sustainability;
- Strategic thinking – better leverage Canada’s comparative advantages and assets to drive the agri-food system forward;
- Public-private partnerships – expand collaborative partnerships to address barriers to the agri-food system and promote a resilient and adaptable system;
- Aspirational leadership – to promote proactive strategies to create a successful agri-food system in the future.
In the first panel, Chris Forbes (DM AAFC), Simon Kennedy (DM Innovation, Science and Economic Development), Christine Hogan (DM Environment and Climate Change), Dr. Harpreet Kiochhar (DM Health Canada), and John Hannaford (DM International Trade) addressed how the federal government views the challenges and opportunities for Canada’s agri-food system. In the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic, Canada’s agri-food system showed itself to be resilient with minimal disruptions to the food supply chain. The economic pressure created by the pandemic also highlighted issues and opportunities. The big issues identified included environmental sustainability, inclusion, and the need to focus on a “One Health” approach in research and regulation. Opportunities that arose were the sky-rocketing rates of digital adoption and the innovation and collaboration across the sector. Canada has a competitive advantage in terms of environment policies, carbon use and food security, which creates a strong foundation moving forward.
In the second panel, Bill Greuel (Protein Industries Canada), Bettina Hamelin (Ontario Genomics), Chris Terris (Telus Agriculture Canada), Gaétan Desroches (Sollio Cooperative Group), and Katelyn Duncan (Backswath Management) discussed private industries role in the moving Canada’s agri-food system forward. The system is ripe for digitization, technology adoption and creating value-added solutions to improve efficiency, sustainability and economic viability. With all the crises the world faces (COVID 19, climate change and anti-microbial resistance, and others) collaboration has never been more important. Private industry needs to adopt more of a “coopetition” outlook, working together to create an outcome where competition can thrive. In science, the lines between disciplines and sectors are blurring more with the One Health approach. This allows for technology to converge to create value added opportunities.
Across all sectors and value chains, the CAPI Forum was a call to action for collaboration and systems thinking to drive the competitiveness and sustainability of Canada’s agri0food system.