One of Canada’s top minds in sustainability has been awarded a prestigious Industrial Research Chair by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). We asked Dr. Nathan Pelletier a dozen questions about his work and his role as the NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability.
1. What do you do?
The production of most food products in modern food systems is supported by a whole array of industrial actitivites distributed across complex supply chains. I study food systems from a “supply chain perspective” in order to identify important sustainability risks and opportunities, and to advance solutions to sustainability challenges.
2. How did you get to where you are today?
I have a background in industrial ecology and ecological economics. I’ve been studying food systems through these lenses in collaboration with food industry stakeholders for over a decade, including with Egg Farmers of Canada. The NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability builds naturally upon this experience and expertise.
3. How does your work contribute to egg farming in Canada?
My research will identify opportunities for Canadian egg farmers and their value chain partners to continue to improve resource efficiencies, reduce emissions and innovate for the future. Taken together, this will contribute to improving the profitability of egg production, enhance the public trust and social license that egg farmers enjoy, and position the Canadian industry as world leaders in sustainability management.
4. What are you working on right now?
I’m currently putting in place the necessary data infrastructure to support rigorous and fully transparent sustainability modelling for the Canadian egg industry. I’m also actively recruiting graduate students to work on a variety of industry-focused projects, while simultaneously developing sustainability scenarios to help guide the continued evolution of the industry.
5. What’s your proudest achievement or moment as a researcher?
Being awarded the NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canadan Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability. This award speaks to the direct relevance of my sustainability research in helping food industry stakeholders continue to progress with respect to sustainability objectives—which, ultimately, is to the benefit of all Canadians.
6. What’s an Industrial Research Chair?
An Industrial Research Chair is an award from the NSERC that facilitates collaborative research between academic and industry partners by matching industry-provided research monies. Industrial Research Chairs are intended to support development of research activities that satisfy important industry needs, provide enhanced training for graduate students and produce outcomes of value both to industry and to Canadians.
7. What does it mean to be the new NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability?
This award provides a strong basis for supporting a five-year program of research involving numerous graduate researchers that will ultimately provide the information, knowledge and tools necessary to identify and implement sustainability improvement opportunities for the Canadian egg industry. In short, it enables undertaking a substantial and well-supported industry-focused program of research.
8. What does it mean to you to be the new NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability?
For me personally, I’m both thrilled and honoured to have this opportunity to make a significant research contribution to advancing the sustainability of the Canadian egg industry, which is an important player in our agri-food landscape. The award is a validation of the societal relevance of sustainability research, generally, and of the work I’ve being doing over the past decade.
9. What will you do with the research grant that comes with being Chair?
The research grant will be used to support six undergraduate research assistants, five MSc students, four PhD students and two post-doctoral fellows, who will work with me in implementing a five-year program of research. This research program will create the data, models, and decision-support tools that will empower Canadian egg farmers and their value chain partners in effective sustainability measurement, management and communication initiatives.
10. What’s your favourite part about working with the egg industry?
I really appreciate Egg Farmers of Canada’s very proactive approach to supporting research and to engaging researchers who can help their industry continue to evolve. It’s fantastic to be undertaking research with an industrial partner knowing that the research outcomes will be directly applied by Canadian egg farmers and others in the industry.
11. What are the big opportunities for egg farmers to lead when it comes to environmental sustainability?
The Canadian egg industry has already taken a leadership role in supporting the establishment of my research chair in sustainability and in collaborating in successfully pursuing the Industrial Research Chair opportunity. By actively engaging in the envisioned five-year program of research, and actively collaborating with my team to ensure that the research outcomes are effectively transferred to Canadian egg farmers, the industry will be very well positioned to take a leadership role globally in sustainability measurement, management and communication initiatives in the agri-food sector.
12. So…what’s your favourite way to eat eggs?
Hmmm. I’m hard pressed to think of a way that I don’t like to eat eggs! I do love eggs benny, as well as chipotle devilled eggs…