What agricultural crop is worth more than gold? You may be surprised that, by weight, saffron is among the most expensive food items and exceeds the price of gold. Carleton students and faculty in Food Science and Biology are developing saffron as a new cash crop for eastern Ontario. This is one of several projects that promotes studies and career opportunities in sustainable food production on the Carleton campus. The initiative is run out of the Biology Teaching and Research Garden and Nesbitt Greenhouses and networks with on-campus food services and regional agricultural start-up companies. The goal of this initiative is to provide hands-on training and practical experience to the next generation of entrepreneurs in sustainable food production.
Sustainable food technology is a viable career path for our students that presents multifaceted opportunities and interesting challenges in designing communities around agriculturally sustainable systems that would provide meaningful and rewarding careers. Sustainable food production is a key to food security in Canada and the world. Nearly 30% of the food we consume in Canada is imported. During cold months, and in remote communities, we import nearly all fresh produce. Further, approximately 40% of the food available to Canadians is wasted due to systemic problems in food management systems, including transport and storage. Over-reliance on imported foods and food waste can be ameliorated through improved systems and technologies such as local indoor farming. Broadly, crops are also valuable sources of medicines and renewable building materials, and husbandry is of intrinsic value to human happiness. Increased engagement in nature contributes to overall wellness in our society.
The funds provided through this campaign will secure resources for student practicums and paid student internships. These student internships will provide experiential learning opportunities and complement course offerings at Carleton on sustainable food production.
Our students are keen to have a positive influence on society and our planet. This initiative will develop expertise in sustainable food production and promote food security in ‘food deserts’ (cities, remote communities). The near-term goals of this initiative are to engage students in the design and implementation of community-scale systems that provide capacity for food production on our campus. Ultimately, this initiative will provide our students with opportunities to impact food security issues at regional, national and international levels.