Research Overview

The BiRN group comprises a number of researchers collectively attacking various problems. For individual research initiatives please see the People, Research Publications, and Research Spotlight pages.  Described below is one of the main ongoing collaborative projects involving multiple BiRN members.


Food from Thought

In 2014, the World Resources Institute Report (WRIR) stated that the rising population, projected to be 9.6 billion people by 2050, demands that society find the solution to the simultaneous “balancing act” of three central global problems: (i) society must produce far more food, and quickly (the agricultural problem); (ii) society must provide economic opportunities for the hundreds of millions of rural poor (the socio-economic problem), and; (iii) society must reduce environmental impacts, including ecosystem degradation, nutrient imbalances, and high greenhouse gas emissions. (the ecological problem).  The nature of these three central problems is that they are embedded within one another such that solutions require simultaneous consideration by a multi-disciplinary group. In the next 7 years, the Biodiversity Resilience Network (BiRN), one axis of the Food for Thought (FFT) research team, seeks to develop greater understanding of the trade-offs, and therefore potential solutions, to these critical global problems.

This University of Guelph initiative funded in part by a $77 million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), seeks to understand how food production can be both productive and sustainable and is directed at creating precision agriculture that efficiently uses nutrients and land. By sustainable, we mean that the development of food security is done in a manner that does not impede or harm biodiversity and associated ecosystem services on farms and in adjacent aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.  This research includes over 25 BiRN principal investigators and we will look to draw on even more funding to push this globally important food security initiative forward. This research also importantly includes collaboration with over 50 people on campus from various backgrounds, simultaneously looking at the agricultural, economic and ecological problem. See the Food Institute at the University of Guelph for further information on the other aspects of this research.