The Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) was created in 1981, when 12 leaders came together with the vision of an agricultural research funding organization that consulted with farmers and worked with researchers. Since then, WGRF has provided more than $183 million in funding to support crop research projects.
“It is a farmer organization,” says Garth Patterson, executive director, WGRF, adding that the board is made up of 18 farmers nominated by member organizations. “We have one real purpose, which is to fund crop research to benefit Western Canadian farmers.”
“We’re actually the largest producer funder of crop research in Canada.”
Currently, the WGRF manages a $147 million crop research fund, and is talking of bringing that number down to “a reasonable level.”
“The board has a new plan, and a new policy on that fund to bring it down to $100 million,” says Patterson. “WGRF doesn’t rely on annual funding or check-offs, but what we want to do is be involved in addressing issues that are both short-term and long-term…so we need that $100 million to give us a reliable source of base revenue over time to make long-term commitments.”
Patterson says the WGRF focuses on working with other funding agencies, to compliment and collaborate rather than duplicate. This means primarily co-funding with crop commissions and provincial and federal governments.
In response to hearing about declining research capacity, the WGRF is funding four new crop production research positions in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta universities, and is working through a $20 million capacity call for proposals to develop crop research infrastructure.
“Our plan over the next few years is to invest wisely in capacity and in research, and over the long-term manage that $100 million in that research fund, so we can always be there to support.”