The humble potato is one of the most important food crops in the world, a common and timeless staple in meals for more than a billion people worldwide, and University of Manitoba (UM) is leading the way globally in the future of potato production and processing, the university says in a news release.
UM will soon be home to a Research Chair in Potato Sustainability thanks to generous donations totaling more than $1.3 million from 19 partners in the potato industry. The first of its kind, this Chair will lead the charge in advancing the potato industry while firmly establishing UM as a top institution in the field.
Addressing global food insecurities
The Chair and the work to be done will be an essential ingredient in the future of global food production and in turn addressing global food insecurities. The Chair will address research priorities ranging from economic sustainability and competitiveness to climate resilience, as the partners aim to develop strategies for a healthier, more inclusive and prosperous future for all by creating global food security to feed the world.
“Through innovative research, hands-on training and extensive knowledge translation, the UM Research Chair in Potato Sustainability will be a North American leader and support a thriving and resilient potato industry in Manitoba,” explains Dr. Nazim Çiçek, Associate Dean (Research) of the UM Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. “The presence of a Research Chair is an important signal to the academic community, governments, granting bodies and industry partners that UM is deeply committed to potato research.”
The idea to establish the Chair stems from the 2022 Manitoba Potato Science and Technology Strategy, which posed the bold vision statement of establishing Manitoba as the Canadian leader in potato research and innovation. The province is well-positioned to make its way to the top, already serving as a major potato-producing region, a home to prominent french fry producers such as McCain and Simplot, and thriving fresh market and seed potato sectors. The strategy went on to recommend expanding UM’s research and training capacity in areas such as agronomy, soils, potato quality and sustainability.
Fostering collaborations with national and international partners
The Chair’s research will focus on addressing global challenges such as improving soil productivity, water management, disease control and variety development while aiming to increase yields, boost quality and enhance profitability in Manitoba. Hosting the Chair establishes our university as a leader while fostering collaborations with national and international partners to drive innovation and benefit the potato sector across Canada and beyond.
In addition to the Chair pushing forward research in the potato industry, creating a pillar of stability for the global food supply, there will also be several new gains for UM’s Agricultural and Food Sciences students. With new learning opportunities, UM will attract top students and nurture their talent to create a centre of expertise.
“The Research Chair will create more training and capacity-building opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, offering them avenues to focus on potato research and extension work. This will help Manitoba’s potato industry by ensuring an exceptional talent pool for the long term. UM will become a school of choice for future potato producers, processors, marketers and researchers,” Dr. Çiçek says.
Support from donors and partners
The support of the generous donors and partners from the industry is crucial in elevating potato research and extension work at UM through the establishment of the Research Chair in Potato Sustainability.
“At Peak of the Market Ltd., we are committed to supporting endeavors that promote lifelong learning,” said Pamela Kolochuk, CEO of Peak of the Market Ltd. “Investing in research and educational programs – including the establishment of the UM Research Chair in Potato Sustainability – not only ensures the health and viability of current agricultural practices, but also creates opportunities for the next generation to hone their skills and helps Manitoba’s potato industry continue to thrive.”
“The support for the creation of a Potato Chair at the University of Manitoba emphasizes the importance of the potato industry in Manitoba and Keystone Potato Producers are anticipating the positive outcomes this will bring,” added Dan Sawatzky of Keystone Potato Producers.
With their investment in innovation and education, we can cultivate a prosperous future for Manitoba and the potato industry across the globe.
Source: University of Manitoba (UM)
Photo: Potato research field. Credit University of Manitoba