Studies show Canadian farmers, manufacturers and retailers waste 60% of the food they produce and process. But where there is waste, there is opportunity. A new and innovative partnership between the Ivey Business School and the Guelph-Wellington’s ‘Our Food Future’ project will investigate how businesses can create opportunities from waste and establish effective circular supply chains.
Led by Jury Gualandris, Assistant Professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University and Ivey’s Centre for Building Sustainable Value, this cross-sector partnership hopes to advance the circular food economy in the Guelph-Wellington region.
“Joining forces with Guelph-Wellington’s ‘Our Food Future’ initiative represents an opportunity to work with, and learn from local area businesses and entrepreneurs already committed to value creation from waste,” said Gualandris. “We hope to bring our expertise and experience with other circular economy innovators to the region with the aim to create economic benefit and unlock the value of waste.”
The collaboration will fund a postdoctoral researcher focused on investigating Guelph’s circular agri-food system. The initial priority of the research will be mapping and analysing the structure and functioning of the emerging Guelph system, as well as assessing potential economic, environmental and societal benefits for the broader community.
“Whether it is peelings, pulp or spent grain, we know that food businesses have by-products in their processing that they can’t use, but that still have value,” said Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director, Guelph-Wellington Smart Cities Office which oversees the Our Food Future project. “There is huge potential in matching these businesses with other businesses that can turn that waste into a new value stream. This work will lead to new business relationships and innovations and will reduce waste that has previously been built into our food production system. This is an exciting new partnership for us.”
This research collaboration is being supported through a Mitacs Accelerate grant, co-funded by the City of Guelph and Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
“We’re delighted to support Guelph-Wellington’s ‘Our Food Future’ initiative, finding postsecondary talent that can bring innovative solutions to the challenge at hand,” said John Hepburn, Mitacs’s CEO and Scientific Director. “Thanks to the funds provided by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, we can help municipalities like the City of Guelph generate social and economic benefits within and beyond their communities.”
The outcomes of this research initiative will directly contribute to the goals of the Our Food Future, linked to the creation of 50 new circular businesses and collaborations along with a projected 50% increase in circular economic revenues. The lessons will likely be applicable across Canada’s agri-food system, informing the growing number of local and national initiatives to reduce food waste and foster the circular economy.