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Supporting Canada's Superclusters

Collaboration is Key in Leading Life Changing Agri-Food Innovation

Ian Stavness and students_Global institute for food security
Sponsored by:
Ian Stavness and students_Global institute for food security
Sponsored by:
Ian Stavness_Global Institute for food security

Ian Stavness

GIFS Enhancement Chair & Program Director, Plant Phenotyping
and Imaging Research Centre

Steve Webb_Global institute for food security

Steve Webb

CEO, GIFS

The Global Institute for Food Security and Protein Industries Canada are instrumental in making Canada’s agriculture more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.


Canadian agriculture has become one of the most sustainable agricultural systems in the world thanks to sound management practices and the enthusiastic adoption of innovative agri-food and agriculture practices and technologies. Ongoing innovation has allowed farmers to steadily increase yields and nutritional value while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainability on all levels — economic, social, and environmental — is being achieved thanks to these innovations, which are the result of successful collaborations between government and industry partners.

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The power of partnership

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) was founded in 2012 in a partnership between Nutrien, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the University of Saskatchewan (USask). It works with partners across the entire food production value chain — including governments, industry, academia, and producers — to discover, develop, and deliver innovative solutions to produce globally sustainable food.

A big part of this is investing in relevant technology platforms that provide scale and transform GIFS’ scientific competencies and capabilities into capacities for stakeholders, making GIFS a catalyst for partnerships and innovation worldwide.

Harnessing AI

Recently, GIFS partnered with Protein Industries Canada (PIC), one of Canada’s five Global Innovation Clusters, and other partners to advance Canada’s National Index on Agri-Food Performance. Together with PIC, Precision.AI and other industry partners, they also collaborated on a project to create new ways to spray weeds or other pests in a targeted way. They developed a precision artificial intelligence (AI) pesticide system that increases the efficient use of pesticides while maintaining crop yield.

“The aim is to develop new ways to spray weeds or other pests in a targeted way,” says Ian Stavness, GIFS Enhancement Chair, Program Director, and Lead Researcher for the Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre, which is managed by GIFS at USask. “The university’s role is to develop a way to find out precisely where the weeds are so that they can be sprayed more efficiently to reduce pesticide use and help protect the environment. We will develop software to automatically sort through drone images of fields to identify weeds.”

The success of AI sprayer technology

The new sprayer technology will improve the efficiencies of pesticides by enabling the precise use of the right product at the right place, in the right amounts and at the right time. The technology can be retrofitted to existing pesticide sprayers, as well as to new sprayers, creating a product suitable for producers across Canada and enhancing economic, environmental, and social sustainability for the sector. And it was all made possible through partnership.

The new sprayer technology will improve the efficiencies of pesticides by enabling the precise use of the right product at the right place, in the right amounts and at the right time

“At GIFS, we recognize the value of collaboration,” says Steve Webb, GIFS’ CEO. “We also serve as a catalyst for innovation within the USask community and industry partners. By joining forces with PIC and other partners on this exciting project, we’re developing innovative technologies to precisely target crop inputs only when and where needed, making production agriculture more efficient and more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.”

Thanks to unique private-public-academic partnerships like GIFS and Canadian innovations in agri-food and agriculture, Canada will continue to be a world leader in advancing sustainable food and in providing the world with safe, nutritious food in a responsible way.

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