Food and Agriculture Institute

Current research projects

Farming for the future: Maximizing the return on investment of agricultural land preservation

Lead researcher: Dr. Lenore Newman

The Lower Mainland’s agricultural lands support an industry producing 1.2 billion dollars worth of agricultural products annually. However, competition from other land uses continues to put pressure on the Agricultural Land Reserve. This project studies the utilization of agricultural lands in the Lower Mainland with a focus on maximizing the return on our investment in farmland preservation.

Contact us for more information about this project. 

Dairy 2.0: Exploring policy implications and public perceptions of cellular agriculture

Lead researcher: Dr. Lenore Newman
Team members/partners: Dr. Lisa Powell, Zsofia Mendly-Zambo
Funder: Genome BC

An emerging application of bioengineering is the production of agricultural products such as meat and dairy without using live animals. These technologies could potentially decrease animal suffering, lower the environmental impact of agriculture and could improve food security in remote regions. However significant policy questions remain.

Funded by Genome BC through its social issues competition, this project will study the potential impact of these cellular agriculture technologies on British Columbia’s food system.

Further reading about cellular agriculture: New Harvest.

Local food sourcing in the Central Fraser Valley

Start date: Jan 1, 2018 | Projected end date: Dec 31, 2019
Lead researcher: Dr. Lisa Powell
Team members/partners: Dr. Lenore Newman, Chelsea Krahn (student), Charmaine White (student)
Funder: Vancity enviroFund Program

The Fraser Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in North America and is home to diverse farming operations. There are also several urban centres in the Valley which are both home to numerous restaurants and immediately surrounded by farms. While numerous restaurants in Vancouver list foods sourced from Fraser Valley farms on their menus, there is far less visible evidence of local sourcing in the restaurants of the Central Fraser Valley, and little is known about the extent to which the area’s restaurants are sourcing from local farms.

This research project will assess the current landscape of sourcing relationships between local farms and local restaurants, to understand how local sourcing relationships are formed and maintained, and to identify relevant needs and capacities. This research will be translated into resources and events designed to support increased sourcing of local food by Central Fraser Valley restaurants.

Innovative crops: Diversifying production on agricultural lands in Southwestern British Columbia

Lead researcher: Dr. Lisa Powell and Dr. Renee Prasad
Team members/partners: Dr. Lenore Newman and Dr. Garry Fehr
Funder: Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia

While crop production in Southwestern B.C. is diverse compared to other areas of North America, it is still concentrated on a small number of crops. The economic viability of growing some staple vegetables has declined in recent years, resulting in even fewer acres of these crops, and transition to more planted in potatoes and blueberries. These shifts further challenge the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture and the food security of the region.

One way to address vulnerabilities caused by the loss of diversity in production is to re-introduce diversity in the form of innovative crops. We define innovative crops as either new to the region, or recently introduced, re-introduced, or being grown under new conditions, with the potential to meet a need or demand for local supply. One example is ethnocultural vegetables, which are food crops not traditionally grown in Canada or introduced by European settlers and which meet the needs of more recent immigrants and interest among the general public for cooking recipes from cuisines with origins worldwide. Particularly underexplored in B.C. are ethnocultural vegetables used in the cuisines of immigrants of South Asian, Filipino and Persian descent. Another area of innovative production is crops that have been unsuited to Southwestern B.C. due to the area’s climate. While climate change will disrupt agriculture, it may enable the production of crops previously unable to survive here. Other innovative crops are those currently in limited production but which may have the potential for more.

This project investigates the potential for economically viable production of innovative crops in Southwestern B.C. and develops extension resources based on the research.

BC Food Web

Lead researcher: Dr. Lisa Powell
Partners: UBC's Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and numerous other collaborators and contributors across the province
Funder: Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia

BC Food Web is a freely-accessible online portal designed to increase access to food systems research results and other resources for producers, processors, policy-makers, educators, and the general public. BC Food Web intends to meet the needs of those interested in increasing the sustainability and resilience of food systems using knowledge generated through high-quality, cutting-edge research.

The portal includes clear and concise briefs focused on the implications and applications of research; these briefs are prepared by the BC Food Web team based at UBC’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and supported by UFV's Food and Agriculture Institute. BC Food Web also hosts webinars, decision tools, and longer-format reports and guides, and links to food systems resources produced by other organizations. BC Food Web is dynamic and constantly growing. New briefs, other materials, and resources from other organizations are added regularly.

To learn more, visit BC Food Web.

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