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This week we celebrate Ontario's 22nd Agriculture Week! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a great opportunity to take a moment to appreciate our hardworking farmers and get in touch with where our food comes from.

 

A variety of foods produced in Ontario forming a heart for Ontario Agriculture Week

 

How can you participate?

 

  • Learn more about agriculture with AgScape's educational resources for elementary (grades 1-8) and secondary (grades 9-12) students, including some Thanksgiving-themed escape rooms

 

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The LINK Project is an exciting new interdisciplinary program that seeks to apply machine learning techniques to research in agriculture and food. The project aims to support critical issues around human health and a sustainable food supply.

 

 

The call for applications is now open!

 

 

This opportunity welcomes proposals from Canadian graduate students for 4-month projects connecting agriculture and food with artificial intelligence. Graduate students in AI are also invited to apply for Machine Learning Scientist positions, to be paired with the selected projects. Follow the link above for more information on how to apply!

 

Interested, but not quite sure how to frame your question to use AI? Take a look at this quick introduction to AI concepts.

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Listen to a review of the year's hottest topics on the FoodFarm Talk radio program, hosted by Feeding 9 Billion's Abdul-Rahim Abdulai and Emily Duncan.

 

 

Which agri-food issues made headlines in 2019?

 


FoodFarm Talk is an interactive program on food and farming that builds on the diverse research at the University of Guelph and the strong Ontario agri-food community, to inform listeners some of the wonderful work being done from farm to fork. The program celebrates the people, research, and work that shape the food we eat. Broadcast on radio Thursday 10:00 am on CFRU 93.3 FM in Guelph, ON, Canada, live on www.cfru.ca or podcast on Anchor, Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google Podcasts. Produced by Abdul-Rahim Abdulai, Emily Duncan, Paul Smith and Cameron Ogilvie.

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     In a world where around 1/3 of food produced is wasted, it almost seems paradoxical that hundreds of millions of individuals are living in food insecurity.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food waste as wholesome edible material intended for human consumption that is instead discarded, degraded, or lost. However, it can also encompass the by-products of food processing, the resources that go into growing the food, and even over-nutrition in some populations. But what exactly drives the creation of food waste?

 

     To no surprise, food waste originates from a complex network of factors. With the modernization of food systems, industrialization has allowed for the overproduction of food, while general economic growth has put us in a mindset that we can “afford” to waste food. Urbanization has detached us from rural farms, creating a disconnection within the farm-to-fork path. From a cultural perspective, some countries have stronger food traditions ingrained in their culture than others, resulting in differing attitudes towards food. For example, France places a large emphasis on the communal aspect of mealtimes, but these parts of the day are often rushed or disregarded in North America. Additionally, food waste is often generated as a by-product of governmental policies. Although necessary, policies for proper food quality testing and prevention of food health hazards can lead to a large amount of food being discarded.

 

An image depicting the food supply chain from raw materials to the consumer

Image taken from: Tzounis, A., Katsoulas, N., Bartzanas, T. & Kittas, C. (2017). Internet of Things in agriculture, recent advances and future challenges. Biosystems Engineering, 164(2017), 31-48.   doi:10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2017.09.007.

 

     A finding that I personally found interesting is how less developed countries produce more food waste in the earlier parts of the Food Supply Chain (FSC), while more developed countries produce more in the latter parts. Less developed countries experience a large portion of food waste at the agriculture and food processing level, which could be ameliorated through improved agricultural infrastructure, increased technological skills and knowledge, and more efficient storage. On the other hand, more developed countries struggle with food waste at the retail and consumption level. Although this pertains to problems with governmental policies, solving the issue requires cooperation from everyone to shift to more sustainable consumption patterns and practices.

 

So what can we do on an individual level to combat this issue?

  1. Better planning: if you plan your meals ahead of time and buy the amount you need and no more, you can prevent problems with having too much food in the house that ends up spoiling.
  2. Proper storage: learn how to best store your food to extend its shelf life. By handling food effectively, you can reduce food spoilage in your household.
  3. Increased awareness: simply knowing about the issue will cause you to be more conscious of the decisions you make in relation to food. Educate your peers and let’s tackle this issue together!

To learn more, check out these articles:

 

Papargyropoulou, E., Lozano, R., Steinberger, J. K., Wright, N., & Ujang, Z. B. (2014). The food waste hierarchy as a framework for the management of food surplus and food waste. Journal of Cleaner Production, 76(1), 106–115. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.04.020

 

Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106(2016), 110–123. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016

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The Feeding 9 Billion Card Game, winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Serious Play award, was recently featured on CTV News! Watch the story below to see how the game, designed to get students excited about agriculture, is being used in high school classrooms.

 

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Canada's 2007 Food Guide from Health Canada

(Health Canada)

     

Until recently, Canada's Food Guide focused mainly on the components of a healthy diet, and their proportions. However, although Canada's food sector produces a variety of choices from each of the necessary food groups, and $50 billion of food is wasted annually, some Canadians still go hungry. It's clear that having an understanding of a healthy diet is not capturing the whole picture.

 

Check out this article from Evan Fraser in The Conversation, to learn about how Canada's new food policy incorporates reducing food waste, sustainable food production, and making healthy foods accessible for all.

 

Read the article here!

 

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