U of G gets largest-ever gift, $20 million to lead agri-food revolution

The University of Guelph (U of G) has received its single largest-ever gift: a $20-million donation from the Arrell Family Foundation to better position the university and Canada as a whole as agri-food leaders.

The donation will be used to create the Arrell Food Institute at U of G. The University will provide matching funds of $20 million, for a total commitment of $40 million.

“This landmark gift will allow our University to address the defining challenge of our time: food security, safety and sustainability,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino. “We are uniquely positioned to make a difference,” he adds.

Currently, the university is considered one of the top agri-food schools in the country, with a 150-year history in agriculture and a global reputation for excellence, Vaccarino said. The University also receives substantial provincial funding under its longstanding partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Along with recent government and private funding — including a $77-million award from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund for the Food From Thought project — this new gift brings the total investment in agri-food at U of G to more than $150 million in the past 12 months.

“The Arrell Food Institute will influence research, policy, practice and behaviour. It’s a bold initiative, and its impacts extend nationally and globally,” said Tony Arrell, a U of G alumnus and chair and CEO of Burgundy Asset Management in Toronto. Arrell and his wife, Anne, who is also a U of G graduate, created the Arrell Family Foundation in 1999.  They took part in the gift announcement, along with daughters Laura, Ashleigh and Nicole, all of whom are directors of the foundation.

Laura Arrell, managing director, said the foundation is dedicated to improving health and quality of life, which meshes with the University’s goal to improve life through research, teaching and innovation. As such, the Arrell Food Institute will bring together cutting-edge research, agricultural expertise, big data, environmental science, business and civil society.

Vaccarino adds that the institute will further strengthen the reputation of U of G and Canada in the global food economy and build on the University’s strong connections with government, international partners, industry, and communities, and help attract world-leading researchers, graduate students and experts. Additionally, the new funding will support new research chairs and scholars, international food innovation awards and a prestigious annual conference.

“This gift will help U of G and Canada to lead the agri-food revolution,” states prof. Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security.

That revolution is based on widening uses of technology in agri-food, he said. “The same technologies that created the Internet and are transforming medicine are now being applied to farmers’ fields and to food processing factories — we can produce more food on less land using fewer inputs.”


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