Weston Seeding Stronger Communities

Funded Research

The Seeding Food Innovation program was created to catalyze the development of trans-disciplinary research that address sustainable food and health challenges that will both impact Canadians and are of global concern. The program provides short-term grants of up to $250,000 as seed funding for novel, translational research projects.


New algal bioreactor design for clean food production with inland aquaculture

Grantees: Dr. Andreas Hyland, Dr. Wael Ahmed
Description: With increasing demand for fish and seafood products globally, inland aquaculture is becoming an important source of global food production. This is primarily because food can be produced in proximity to large and densely populated areas, cutting down on transportation costs and emissions. It also allows the use of a more diverse set of species as the risk of local species introductions is significantly reduced. Finally, inland aquaculture is less prone to natural disasters (hurricanes, typhoons, blooms, water contamination etc.). We are developing a photo-bioreactor for the removal of nutrients from recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), making inland seafood production more sustainable and cost effective. » More Info

Optimization of an environmentally friendly process for shrimp chitin extraction

Grantees: Dr. Deepika Dave, Ms. Julia Pohling, Ms. Sheila Trenholm, Mr. Wade Murphy, Mr. Simon Jarding, Dr. Kelly Hawboldt, Dr. Lordwin Jeyakumar
Description: Up to 70% of the shellfish landed in Newfoundland and Labrador every year is discarded as waste. This ‘waste’ contains several valuable compounds including Chitin in the shrimp shells. Chitin and its derivative Chitosan are a highly valuable natural polymers with many applications in the medical and nutraceutical fields as well as in wastewater treatment » More Info

Development of Sustainable Biopesticides Based on Phytochemicals Extracted from Agri-Food Waste

Grantees: Dr. Rob Nicol, Dr. Simon Lachance, Dr. Ian Scott, Dr. Shawn Wettig, Dr. Richard Vyn, Cara McCreary, Norm Hansen, Dr. Timothy Wilson, The Middlesex London Food Policy Council (MLFPC)
Description: Billions of tonnes of agri-food waste are generated around the world annually, representing an untapped resource for the development of new biofuels and bioproducts. In Ontario, most of the agricultural waste is in the form of crop residue, the leftover part of the crop that is not harvested, as well as waste from food processing, such as the skins and seeds produced during the preparation of canned or frozen vegetables. All of these wastes contain naturally occurring bioactive chemicals and interest in using these natural chemicals for agricultural, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical applications continues to grow. » More Info

Altering Plant Microbiomes for Flavour and Nutrition

Grantees: Dr. Roberta Fulthorpe, Dr. Apollinaire Tsopmo, Mr. Brandon Hebor, Dr. Enilson Saccol de Sá, Dr. Patricia Dörr de Quadros
Description: The goal of this project is to use naturally-occurring bacteria to improve the flavour and nutritional properties of food grown in hydroponic and aquaponics systems. This study will investigate ability of plant associated bacteria to alter the metabolic profile of select vegetables and leafy greens. » More Info

Using beneficial microbes to mitigate the effects of climate change on plant nutrition, resistance to insects, and drought

Grantees: Dr. Cara Haney, Dr. Juli Carrillo, Dr. Yi Song, Dr. Quentin Geissmann
Description: Climate change has major present-day and anticipated consequences for Canadian and global food security. Increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can lead to decreased plant nutritional quality: more fixed carbon and sugar means that plants have less protein and micronutrients per gram. Additionally, increased CO2 levels can exacerbate insect pests on crops because elevated CO2 interferes with plant signalling and suppresses plants' ability to respond to stressors. » More Info

Enabling the next revolution in global food production through automatically labelled data sets and machine learning

Grantees: Dr. Christopher Bidinosti, Dr. Christopher Henry, Dr. Carl Gutwin, Dr. Ian Stavness, Dr. Rafael Otfinowski, Dr. Ed Cloutis, Dr. Jonathan Ziprick
Description: We envision a future where it will be possible to lavish the same attention on individual plants in a large prairie crop farm as one might on those in a backyard garden. As camera sensors shrink in size, and self-driving vehicles continue to improve, such an idea is no longer the realm of science fiction. The remaining piece of the puzzle, however, is the need for a very large number of pre-identified images of crop plants and weeds with which to train a computer to recognize one from the other. Our research project is to develop the means to automatically generate and label such images and to make the resulting data sets openly available for use by Canadian researchers and companies. » More Info

Nanotechnology-based development of antimicrobial materials for food packaging and processing

Grantees: Dr. Hyo-Jick Choi, Dr. Byeong Hwa Jeon
Description: Food safety is a top priority in the food industry and public health. Since cross-contamination during food processing and preparation sometimes leads to foodborne outbreaks, it is important to develop novel intervention methods to reduce contamination of foods. Cross-contamination is usually initiated with the attachment of pathogenic bacteria to the food-contacting surface of food processing equipment, and possibly packaging materials. For this, various methods have been explored at the laboratory level with some technical limitations. » More Info


Food Systems Lab at the University of Toronto: Evaluating the Efficacy and Innovative Potential of Food Waste Awareness Campaigns

Grantees: Dr. Virginia Maclaren, Dr. Tammara Soma, Dr. Rafaela Gutierrez Peppineli, Ms. Belinda Li, Ms. Tamara Shulman
Description: Food waste is a major global issue affecting the entire food supply chain. It is estimated that anywhere between 30% and 50% of food produced for human consumption is wasted globally. In Canada, it is estimated that $31 billion dollars’ worth of food is wasted annually; the true cost of which is actually closer to $107 billion when wasted water, energy and other resources are taken into account. » More Info

Replacing antibiotics in beef cattle production with essential oils and organic acids may improve quality and fatty acid composition of beef products

Grantees: Dr. Benjamin M. Bohrer, Dr. Ira B. Mandell
Description: Overall goals of this research are to investigate the effects of replacing antibiotic therapeutics (monensin and tylosin) with alternatives (essential oil blend and benzoic acid) in feedlot cattle. This study will evaluate live performance, carcass characteristics, cost of production, fresh meat quality, and sensory attributes of beef ribeye and ground beef. » More Info

Improving Aquaculture Feed Sustainability through Use of Genetically Engineered Oils

Grantees: Dr. Stefanie Colombo, Dr. Michael Arts, Dr. Richard Bazinet
Description: Aquaculture will be instrumental in maintaining global food security in the future: up to 40 million metric tonnes of seafood will be required by 2030 to feed the growing human population, and over 60% of seafood will come from aquaculture. Some of the main nutritional benefits of seafood are the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and which have critical roles in cardiovascular and neurological health. » More Info

Replacing Sustainable production of animal protein in the absence of antibiotics

Grantees: Dr. Shayan Sharif, Dr. Raveendra Kulkarni, Dr. Joshua Gong
Description: Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) have been used for decades in poultry production for growth promotion. However, in view of the worldwide ban of AGPs and the rising concerns over the spread of antibiotic resistance affecting human health, finding alternatives to antibiotics has become a necessity. Although AGPs have been effectively reducing the burden of enteric diseases, the removal of AGPs is likely to precipitate devastating diseases like Necrotic Enteritis (NE). » More Info

Stewardship science technology for monitoring the socio-ecological outcomes of farming practices

Grantees: Dr. Zia Mehrabi, Dr. Navin Ramankutty, Dr. Hannah Wittman
Description: The rise in digital technology and data (smart phones, internet, satellite observations, climate monitoring networks, crop models, statistical learning) offer a way to help assist farmers manage their holdings with higher input efficiently, and for higher profits. This has been well recognized by leading commercial farm management technology providers. Knowledge built from pooling data across farmer networks also offers a way to learn about best practices, and to improve productivity. » More Info

Development and standardization of textured pureed foods for the elderly population

Grantees: Dr. Christine Moresoli, Dr. Lisa Duizer, Dr. Heather Keller
Description: Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a common condition within the older adult population. Nearly half of Canadian long term care (LTC) residents are prescribed diets with modified textures, where their food will be chopped, minced, pureed or liquefied. Once pureed, the food becomes unidentifiable and its taste and smell can become distinctly different from the original meal. This change in sensory experience may lead to reduced consumption and malnutrition. » More Info

Development of easy-to-prepare pulse-based meals for consumption by office workers to combat the negative health consequences of a sedentary work environment

Grantees: Dr. Phil Chilibeck, Dr. Gordon Zello, Dr. Shannon Hood-Niefer
Description: The project will involve the development of approximately seven “pulse-based” lunches/snacks, which are designed to be easy to prepare (i.e. “out of the package”) for people in a typical busy office work environment. Pulses include non-oil legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas, which are a major component of the Canadian agricultural industry. These meals/snacks will be developed and tested for consumer satisfaction (i.e. by testing taste, texture, aroma, etc.) through the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc. » More Info

Nutrition in Disguise: Improving the nutritional quality of foods for older adults

Grantees: Dr. Heather Keller, Dr. Liza Duizer, Dr. Alison Duncan
Description: The overall goal of this research is to develop food recipes that are rich in vitamins, minerals and other food components known to support the physical and mental health of older adults. A variety of enhanced food recipes will be initially designed for older adults living in residences with applicability to pre-frail and frail older adults living in the community. It is hypothesized that the nutrient density and anti-oxidant potential of menus used in residential environments can be improved in a cost-effective manner with the inclusion of several enhanced food recipes designed for this population. » More Info


Cultivating Innovations in Ecological Agriculture: Growing EFAO's Farmer-Led Research Program

Grantees: Dr. Sarah Hargreaves
Description: Farmer adoption of ecological farming practices – those that conserve water, regenerate soil and biodiversity and reduce energy and chemical inputs – is critical to the production of more nutritious and sustainably-produced foods and the viability of our farms and rural communities. With growing awareness of the importance of soil health and diversified agriculture, farmer knowledge and innovations are both timely and urgently needed in order to create a truly sustainable agriculture. » More Info

Production and transfer of essential fatty acids in the ocean

Grantees: Dr. Suzanne Budge, Dr. Emmanuel Devred, Dr. Catherine Johnson
Description: To begin to answer this question, we will follow three distinct lines of research. In our first objective, we will measure production rates of two common species of phytoplankton under different growth conditions to capture the variation in fatty acid production throughout the year. Data from these experiments will be used to validate and further refine an existing algorithm that derives fatty acid production from satellite-derived ocean colour measurements. » More Info

Evaluating the dietary protein quality of Canadian pulses to meet human nutrition needs by measuring the metabolic availability of the most limiting amino acids; methionine

Grantees: Dr. Glenda Courtney-Martin, Dr. Rajavel Elango, Dr. Paul B. Pencharz, Dr. Ronald O. Ball, Dr. Christopher Tomlinson Description: The world’s population will reach 12 billion by this century’s end and nations are being challenged to provide enough safe, nutritious foods for all. Protein in foods is made up of 20 amino acids (AAs) needed for growth and bodily function. Animal protein contains all 20 AAs but its production is “more resource intensive than any other form of food production” and its high saturated fat content is linked to chronic diseases. » More Info

Evaluating the impacts of an innovative centrally-procured school food program on student nutrition and the local food economy

Grantees: Dr Jason Gilliland, Dr. Jamie Seabrook, Dr Danielle Battram, Dr. Colleen O’Connor, Dr Paula Dworatzek, Dr. Sarah Woodruff
Description: The Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (HEAL) at Western University is researching an innovative centrally-procured school food program (CPSFP) of the Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP). The CPSFP will be offered at 30 elementary schools in Southwestern Ontario, providing children with fruit and vegetable snacks each day. Using centralized procurement practices, the program aims to improve the nutritional quality of food being offered through the existing school snack program, to positively impact children’s health and development. » More Info

Social and organizational dimensions of climate change mitigation among Alberta’s grain and beef producers

Grantees: Dr. Debra J. Davidson, Dr. Lianne Lefsrud, Dr. Andreas Hamann
Description: This project will involve the identification of innovative practices in the beef and grain sectors with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and evaluation of the opportunities and barriers associated with the potential upscaling of these practices. Considering the large role played by agriculture in Alberta, reducing emissions from this sector will be key to achieving the goals of Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Plan. » More Info