New centres will help grow agricultural research

(Edmonton) Two new agricultural research centres launched Tuesday at the University of Alberta will create new opportunities for Alberta's crop and livestock producers.

Led by two top researchers in the U of A Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences , the new centres in oilseed and livestock research are being supported by $4.5 million over two years from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.

Phytola, headed by Randall Weselake, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and Canada Research Chair in Agricultural Lipid Biotechnology, focuses on developing strategies that will improve the quantity and quality of oil in crops such as canola and flax.

Livestock Gentec, which is also supported by a $1.5 million investment from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, will be led by Stephen Moore, also a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and a world leader in livestock genomics research. The centre will research ways to produce healthier, more efficient cattle that produce better beef and dairy products.

The centres bring together leading international experts in agricultural biotechnology, provide connections to well-respected national and international networks and symbolize both the university's vibrant partnership with government and its commitment to the agricultural industry, said Carl Amrhein, U of A provost and vice-president (academic).

"The research being conducted at both centres is leading-edge and will make significant contributions to the issues of food security, food quality and value-added opportunities for crop and livestock producers," he said. "They are wonderful examples of how the provincial government, through the Alberta Innovates system, and academia and industry are able to collaborate and discover new knowledge that benefits all of society."

In viewing some of the lab work being done by Weselake, Moore and their teams, Jack Hayden, Alberta's minister of agriculture and rural development, was struck by the significance of the research.

"The work these people do at the U of A is unbelievable. This is one of the top research institutions in the world, and today's announcement will take it one more step," Hayden said.

The government's investment in research allows the U of A to foster a legacy of talented people, Moore said, referring to students in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, who work around the world in the industry. "One of the big [legacies] we are leaving are these students."

The work being funded through the creation of the new centres plays a vital role in growing the emerging bio-economy and the experts who will power that field, Weselake added.

"These personnel will be integral to the success of the province and Canada. Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the Alberta government deserve special thanks for making these centres a reality. Alberta is richer than ever because of these investments."

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