New centre at University of Calgary to focus on growth, sustainability of agriculture


The University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy (SPP) has announced the creation of the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education. The Centre is named after Calgary rancher and businessman John Simpson, who contributed more than $5 million to establish the school.

“Several years ago, the school launched an initiative to quantify the contribution of various resource sectors to the economy,” says Dr. PG Forest, director of the School of Public Policy. “We intuitively knew that the contribution of resource sectors, such as agriculture and livestock, were being undervalued and underestimated. John Simpson understands that — and he understands the incredible future contribution of globally traded Western Canadian agricultural exports to our economy. We’re grateful for his foresight.”

According to a news release, the school is to be known for its independence, rigour and fact-based analysis. SPP will inform the public and stakeholder dialogue about agri-food and agri-business issues and support the Simpson Centre in research and public education on forward-looking and practical issues in the agricultural sector.

“Agriculture is of major importance not just to farmers and ranchers, but to all Canadians. We all benefit from advances in agri-tech, accessible export markets and business-friendly policies that help spur economic growth,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice chancellor, University of Calgary.

The research at the new centre will focus on four key areas: trade policy, environment and climate change, agriculture as a major resource sector, and food and agriculture technology.

Within each topic, focus areas have already been identified as the following:

  • Trade policy
    • The U.S.-China trade war – its impact on Canada and how Canada can establish its own, advantageous trade agenda with China.
    • The WTO and Agreement on Agriculture has benefited Canadian agri-food but has stalled. How can Canada re-exert itself to take full advantage of the WTO?
    • CETA was implemented in September 2017 and was a historic agreement on many fronts including removal of trade irritants. Nonetheless, the agreement has so far been a disappointment. EU agri-food exports to Canada grew by four percent from 2017 to 2018. However, Canadian exports to the EU have stagnated. In part, the explanation for this imbalance has been non-tariff barriers including food safety rules and regulations. The Research will provide focused prescriptions to overcome these challenges.
    • Trade diversification – Canada is simply too dependent on two major export markets – the U.S. and China. This research will engage Canada’s foreign affairs experts to provide advice on how to aggressively engage with our prime emerging markets, with a focus on Asia outside of China
  • Environment and climate change
    • Canadian agriculture and carbon capture – best practices in agriculture to capture GHG’s and mitigate overall environmental impacts.
    • Understanding an applying global trends in food production – as the global middle class grows, so does interest in sustainable, humane and organic agricultural practices. How can Canada take the lead in implementing these practices, and thereby create a competitive advantage for Canadian producers in a globalized agri-food market?
  • Agriculture as a major resource sector
    • Modeling and calculating the contribution of agri-food and agri-business to the Canadian economy.
    • Demonstrating the growth potential, in dollars, cents and impact across Canada (including in urban centres) of the Canadian agri-food and agri-business sector.
  • Food and agriculture technology
    • Block-chain and quality control – blockchain technology is about much more than e-currency. It has applications to any complex industry that requires multiple inputs and control tracking through a complex supply chain. How can Canada become a global leader in the application of blockchain, and other technologies, to agricultural production and exports?

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