Understanding the impact and mitigation strategies of the COVID‑19 outbreak on the agricultural sector in Northeastern Ontario

Craig, Robin | $50,000

Ontario Collège Boréal 2020 NSERC College COVID-19 Grant

The federal and provincial governments have listed agriculture and food production as essential businesses and

services during the COVID‑19 pandemic. This includes businesses that produce food and beverages, and

agricultural products from farming, harvesting, aquaculture, hunting and fishing. In Northeastern Ontario, the

COVID‑19 pandemic has resulted in heightened consumer demand for fresh, high quality, nutrient dense, safe

food, with a marked public interest for locally grown and produced foods. However, meeting this demand is

proving difficult and revealing weaknesses in the food systems. Agri-businesses face numerous challenges due

to the pandemic including labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, insufficient infrastructure for storage, and

limited retail marketplaces such as farmers markets that are currently suspended due to physical distancing

concerns. Despite these challenges, many agri-businesses are finding innovative ways to facilitate consumer

access to their products, and in some cases even expand their markets. Some of these strategies include

leveraging social media, enhancing local food initiatives, and launching online stores and e-platforms. The

objective of this applied research collaboration between Collège Boréal, The Rural Agri-Innovation Network

(RAIN herein) and reThink Green is to rapidly identify the emerging needs of Northeastern Ontario

agri-businesses so that each organization can quickly position their respective services and interventions

(academic, research, advocacy, community initiatives, marketing and business development) to 1) enhance

supports for production, distribution, and marketing activities during the pandemic; and 2) provide

evidence-informed recommendations and business strategies for agri-businesses and policy-makers to ensure

economic stability and food security in the post-pandemic period.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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