Bridging the gap between research and poultry
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) has expanded its successful mentorship program for early career faculty to graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and industry and government staff working in livestock and poultry research through a new initiative called the Bridge.
According to LRIC CEO Mike McMorris, the program will give participants greater understanding of the sector as well as the ability to start to build relationships and networks with people across the industry.
“A familiarity with the complexities of the livestock sector and its needs and opportunities is important background for people who work in this industry in various capacities, whether for government, industry partners or academia,” says McMorris.
“Ultimately, building these solid connections will help ensure research that is impactful and can get into practice – and LRIC’s decades of experience in the industry makes us an ideal partner for this type of initiative.”
The program is free of charge and open to participants not just working in animal sciences, but also in engineering, computer science and related social sciences. The first cohort started with a half day session last fall and will wrap up in late winter.
Stephanie Lam is a research associate with the Cánovas Lab at the Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock at the University of Guelph and one of the Bridge participants.
“As an early-career professional and researcher in agriculture, I've learned that agriculture is a field with limitless opportunities to improve,” says Lam. “By building a diverse network and improving the communication across sectors with academia, industry, government, and producers, we will be led to those interesting conversations on how we can collaborate to overcome challenges, find solutions, and advance our system.”
The program has helped her connect with other professionals and students beyond her own field, including equine, crops and apiculture, as well as direct communication with industry stakeholders interested in learning more about her work.
“This program is important because collaboration will drive opportunities and we need to continue to work on communicating, connecting and bridging so we can help advance Canadian agriculture,” Lam believes. “We also gain energy and excitement when we learn about new ideas and that fosters innovative thinking.”
According to McMorris, the idea for the Bridge came from the evolution of the mentorship program LRIC launched in 2020 for early career faculty to help them build their livestock research network and get a better sense of Ontario’s livestock commodity landscape.
“The program proved popular with our early career faculty participants from the University of Guelph and we began to see a need for a similar opportunity beyond just faculty for people who are also involved in livestock research but might work for government, an industry organization, for example,” he says.
McMorris adds that as the issues facing the livestock industry become more complex, so do the solutions that are needed. That means a lot more interdisciplinary research that involves not just researchers with expertise in animal health or nutrition, but also those from fields like engineering, information technology or environmental science, for example.
“Innovation requires many things, including sound research rooted in industry needs, strong working relationships between researchers and industry, and effective technology transfer involving many organizations,” he says. “Both of these programs are ways we can help better equip researchers with the tools they’ll need to help advance innovation in the Ontario livestock industry.”
To date, 24 participants have completed the mentorship program and eight are part of the current Bridge cohort.
This article was published in the September 2023 edition of Canadian Poultry.