OCE's Social Innovation program supports rural-urban partnership to protect water quality and support Ontario agriculture
Water quality is a vital issue for the 39 municipalities and 1 million residents living in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge's Grand River Watershed region. This is farm country, home to some of Ontario's most viable and productive farmland. With approximately 6,000 farms in this area putting food on our tables, the water quality in this area is a provincial concern. That's why six regional and provincial organizations - with support from OCE - have partnered to facilitate the exchange of critical nutrient information and best practices between watershed stakeholders.
Launched earlier today at the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) building in Cambridge, the Farming 4R Watershed project supports the GRCA in its efforts to encourage farmers to adopt and advocate for nutrient management practices. Funded by the Canadian Fertilizer Institute and the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Social Innovation Program, the project brings together a number of project partners with expertise in the areas of water quality and agriculture including ClimateCHECK, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the GRCA, the University of Waterloo Water Institute, and the Region of Waterloo.
Using ClimateCHECK’s Agri-INNOVATIONS solution and online Collaborase tools, the partners will virtually extend the conversation of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program (Right fertilizer source; at the Right rate; at the Right time; in the Right place) to facilitate sharing of nutrient Best Management Practices (BMPs). Farmers will have online access to pertinent information and expert networks and benefit from greater participation in innovative strategies for implementing BMPs. The results will assist in decreasing environmental impacts from nutrient management on farms to both surface and groundwater resources, crop nitrogen use efficiency on land use and reduce air emissions.
"This project will not only benefit the agricultural community by offering a collaborative framework to establish best sustainability practices, but also benefits the residents in the surrounding municipalities serviced by the watershed through decreased ground and surface water contamination and improved drinking water quality," said Dr. Tania Massa, Director of Programs, OCE, who oversees the Social Innovation Program.
The partnership announcement was attended by approximately 50 attendees including conservation leaders, scientists, farmers, farm advisors, farm input suppliers, fertilizer industry representatives, elected officials from the region, and community groups with an interest in Grand River Watershed activities.
“The Farming 4R Watershed project is a prime example of the type of social-change-based cross-sector partnerships the Social Innovation program is trying to foster,” said Denise Brennan, Program Manager, Social Innovation, OCE. “The potential social and environmental impacts, the strength of the collaboration among the partners, the scalability and potential to further develop the project are what will make this project truly a success."