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LRIC Update: New mentorship program builds bridges

Initiative connects University of Guelph faculty to livestock industry. 


January 28, 2021
By Lilian Schear for LRIC

Topics
Some mentorship program participants recently went on a farm tour.

Innovation requires many things, including sound research rooted in industry needs, strong working relationships between university faculty and industry and effective technology transfer involving many organizations.

Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) supports all of those activities in various ways, including a mentorship program for new University of Guelph faculty in the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CPES) to make connections to the provincial livestock industry. 

The initiative was launched earlier this year with an initial cohort of nine new Guelph faculty from those three colleges. 

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“This is far more than we anticipated, which indicates there is a real need for this kind of program,” says LRIC CEO Mike McMorris. “There is a growing number of faculty who work on research for the livestock sector who are unfamiliar with the issues facing the industry, and this gives them a chance to gain some of those insights that will hopefully help them in their work.”

A 10-session program is planned for the mentees that is a mix of webinar-style learning and visits to Ontario livestock and poultry farms. And although the original goal was to roll out all sessions this year, the programming for the first cohort is being spread out over a longer time span due to COVID-19. 

In the first session, participants met each other and heard presentations from coalition industry groups including LRIC and Poultry Industry Council for a high-level overview of the sector. 

The second session introduced mentees to Ontario livestock and poultry organizations. Representatives from Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Canadian Poultry Research Council, Ontario Sheep Farmers, Veal Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork, Beef Farmers of Ontario, and Dairy Farmers of Ontario each presented an overview of their sector, their support for research, and their advice for early career researchers.

 

“We had exceptional industry participation,” McMorris notes. “The key advice for researchers was around the importance of building a relationship with industry and a need for much improved technology transfer.” 

The first farm visit day took participants to visit a beef farm near Fergus and a sheep farm in the Shelburne area so they could meet producers, see farming up close, and ask questions on a broad range of agricultural subjects, from animal health and welfare practices to environmental issues and carbon sequestration. 

Heather Murphy is a new associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology at OVC working in the area of One Health. Her background is in engineering, water quality and public health. Being new to agriculture, the on-farm day has helped her better visually understand farm infrastructure. 

“I gained a greater understanding of how operations can vary significantly from one farmer to another and that research priorities could be very diverse and will really depend on the type of farm and the farmer,” she says. 


Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) fosters research collaboration and drives innovation in the livestock and poultry industry. Visit livestockresearch.ca for more information or follow
@LivestockInnov on Twitter.