SASKATOON – Thanks to a just-announced $37.2-million federal investment, the Global Institute
for Food Security (GIFS), an institute at the University of Saskatchewan, will engage with
regional, national and international partners to advance its research and innovation program:
Designing Crops for Global Food Security.
Designing Crops for Global Food Security is led and managed by GIFS for the university and on
behalf of a large multi-disciplinary consortium. It will combine the science of plant genomics
(DNA sequencing and analysis) with crop phenotyping (identification of useful traits) using high
performance computing and advanced imaging technology.
“The power of plant genomics lies in our ability to analyse massive data sets of DNA to identify
which genes are needed to breed a crop with superior performance,” GIFS Executive Director
Maurice Moloney said. “However, crop phenotyping is not yet a digital activity. Identifying useful traits are still done manually by plant breeders – an approach as old as agriculture itself,” he said. “If images of
these traits can be digitized, they can be analysed rapidly and then used to match specific DNA
sequences to agronomic traits. This will greatly accelerate plant-breeding efforts.”
Moloney said this work will put Canada in a leading position worldwide in digital and
“It will provide next-generation technologies to Canadian companies and will enable breeders in
developing countries to participate in the crop genomics revolution,” he said. “It capitalizes on
existing infrastructure and intellectual resources in Saskatchewan to make a whole which is
much bigger than the sum of its parts.”
Chair of the GIFS Board Dallas Howe said, “This investment will help GIFS contribute to global
food security through transformative innovation and the development of products and business
opportunities in the developed world, and will also general sustainable technologies for
The U of S campus is the natural venue to build this capability due to its world-class plantbreeding
and agronomy as well as computer science expertise, Canada’s synchrotron, a
cyclotron and engineers skilled in advanced sensor technology. The campus is also home to researchers at the National Research Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who will collaborate on the program.
Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research, said, “This award is a major boost to multidisciplinary
research on this campus and provides substantial, long-term support for our
institutional strategy of excellence in agricultural and nutritional sciences. It also positions the
university internationally as a major player in plant genomics and phenotyping.”
This award will unleash the power of genomics and greatly accelerate plant-breeding efforts
needed to meet the challenge of global food security as the world population grows steadily to
an anticipated peak of 9.6 billion in 2050.
About GIFS: The Global Institute for Food Security is a unique public-private partnership located
at the University of Saskatchewan, founded by PotashCorp, the Government of Saskatchewan
and the University. GIFS was founded in 2012 with an initial investment of $35M from
PotashCorp and a further $15M from the Government of Saskatchewan. Viterra has also
invested $2M towards GIFS research. GIFS performs research to deliver transformative
innovation in agriculture to both the industrialized and developing world.