Seeking Examples of Circular Agriculture & Food Solutions in Canada
By: Sonia Cyrus Patel
As the world’s population continues to grow and require more food, it is estimated that meeting this demand in 2050 will require food production to increase by 70% from 2005 levels.1 Yet, a third of all food produced globally is wasted each year, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes annually and worth an estimated C$1.3 trillion.2 In Canada, this proportion is even higher, with 58% of all food produced (amounting to 35.5 million metric tonnes) lost or wasted. Of this waste, 11.2 million metric tonnes, worth C$49.5 billion, could be prevented.3
Much of this issue can be addressed by rethinking our conventional agriculture and food practices in ways that help to regenerate our natural resources and reduce food loss and waste, or where this is not possible, create new value from it. This line of thinking - also known as the circular economy model - is gaining traction across the globe as way of building a more sustainable economy. Applying circular economy principles to the agri-food system, can not only help to address the food loss and waste issue but also generate multiple co-benefits, including enhancing food security and the resiliency of supply chains creating new economic, investment, and employment opportunities; reducing pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; improving nutrient cycling and restored biodiversity; and providing greater equity and related social benefits.
To uncover examples of how communities and businesses - large and small, urban and rural, and from coast to coast - are engaging in activities across food supply chains to make them more circular, sustainable, and resilient, the City of Guelph's Our Food Future initiative is funding a research project in partnership with the National Zero Waste Council and NGen: Canada's Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster which is being undertaken by the Smart Prosperity Institute.
This national mapping exercise is intended to identify circular hot spots, unearth examples of circular food system approaches and identify leaders that producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, food recovery organizations, and supply chain innovators can learn from. We would like to hear from businesses and communities - large and small, urban and rural, and from coast to coast - who are engaging in activities across the food supply chain. We’re especially hoping to learn about efforts underway in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities and understand how circular practices are helping build food security and resilience.
The examples will inform the Circular Economy Solutions Series - Circular Food Systems Track in partnership with Circular Economy Leadership Canada, a collaborative national initiative exploring how we can design our agricultural supply chain and food systems with circularity in mind to enhance productivity, spur innovation, eliminate waste, reduce GHG emissions, and restore damaged soil and ecosystems. These examples of solutions and best practices from every corner of Canada will support future engagement with a broad set of stakeholders across the entire value chain and agri-food ecosystem in Canada, resulting in an accelerated transition to a circular food system through coordinated and collective action.
If you represent or know of a solution that's contributing to a more circular, sustainable, and resilient agri-food system, we would love to hear more about it! Please help us further this critical transition by telling us more about the initiative by filling out this short form.
About the Author
Sonia is an economist by training and has an international research background in circular economy, climate change and sustainable development issues. As a part of the Smart Prosperity Institutes’ Circular Economy team, she has co-authored a public report on Innovation for a Circular Economy: Learning from the Clean Growth Journey; contributed to the publication of the Circular Economy Global Sector Best Practices Series and a working paper on Priority Industries for a Circular Economy in Canada; and worked on a project examining the Canadian Solar PV and Wind Turbines- Value Recovery and End-of-life Considerations.
She is currently leading research on developing policy interventions to support the creation of new value from agriculture and agri-food waste and by-products. As a Climate Change Consultant prior to joining SPI, Sonia delivered projects on climate change mitigation and adaptation to international development agencies including the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme and GIZ. She has a Masters in Environmental Economics and Climate Change from the London School of Economics, U.K.
 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2009). Global agriculture towards 2050.
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2019). Cities and Circular Economy for Food.
 Nikkel, L., Maguire, M., Gooch, M., Bucknell, D., LaPlain, D., Dent, B., . . . Felfel, A. (2019). The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: The Roadmap. Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International.