NSERC-SSHRC Sustainable agriculture research initiative

Supporting research to initiate or accelerate the development of solutions that will be required for a sustainable, resilient and profitable agriculture sector in a net-zero economy


Canadian university researchers in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences or engineering fields collaborating with organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors; college faculty can participate as co-applicants

How much?

$500,000 to $2,000,000 per year

How long?

4 years


This initiative is a joint effort between the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

Contributions from all economic sectors are required to meet the Government of Canada's ambitious climate mitigation targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 40–45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. In the agricultural sector, Canada has made commitments to reduce emissions from fertilizer use to 30% below 2020 levels by 2030 and to support the Global Methane Pledge by reducing global methane emissions to 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

Currently, agricultural emissions from primary production account for approximately 10% of Canada's total emissions. Agricultural practices release GHG emissions primarily from biological sources as well as from the combustion of fossil fuels. Agriculture is also in a unique position to further climate change mitigation by using nature-based solutions that can remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

While some solutions (beneficial management practices and technologies) are available and being developed to help reduce these emissions, there has been a realization that improving current production systems will not be enough to meet the long-term ambitious objectives of decarbonizing the economy. In that context, NSERC, SSHRC and AAFC are collaborating to support research to initiate or accelerate the development of transformative innovations, practices, technologies, products, land uses and inputs that will lead to a sustainable, profitable and resilient agriculture and agri-food sector in the uncertain climate and net-zero economy of the future.

Budget 2022 included a commitment for immediate action towards climate mitigation in support of the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan: Canada's Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy to support farmers as partners in building a clean, prosperous future. This initiative will help reinforce, coordinate and scale up Canada's domestic research capabilities through partnerships between universities, colleges and organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. For example, this initiative will support research on crop varieties that require less fertilizer, social science research that supports the adoption of climate smart practices, and the development of metrics to understand and report on the impacts of producer actions and government programming. The aim is to support research, which will enable the Canadian agricultural sector to contribute to Canada's GHG emission goals.

This initiative will fund multidisciplinary, collaborative networks of researchers to address specific research objectives by initiating or accelerating the development of truly transformative solutions, and by mobilizing expertise, technologies and research in  social sciences, natural sciences and engineering and in areas that broaden the traditional network of agriculture research partners. With the objective of amplifying long-term adoption, this funding will support both fundamental and applied research to accelerate the knowledge base for transformative alternative practices, technologies, and their adoptions, as well as to build reliable and consistent measurement tools and performance metrics. To significantly increase the speed at which proven technologies and practices are adopted within the sector, proposals should clearly define a plan for knowledge translation and transfer to the sector.

Grant support from this initiative will range from $500,000 to $2,000,000 per year, for four years. NSERC and SSHRC will provide support for 100% of the eligible costs of research. Although partner organizations do not need to provide cash contributions to participate, they must actively play a role in the research project and support it through in-kind contributions.

This initiative recognizes the need to bring together the social and behavioural sciences and humanities, alongside the natural sciences and engineering fields, to make important contributions to the transformation needed in society. Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with knowledge users (such as agronomists, producers, smart farms, etc.) to support knowledge mobilization.

Who can apply?

Canadian university researchers from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences or engineering fields, may apply for this funding opportunity. Specifically, eligible Canadian university researchers must apply as part of a team with two or more eligible co-applicants. To be an applicant or co-applicant, you must be working in a research area supported by NSERC or SSHRC and you must meet NSERC's eligibility requirements at the time of application. College faculty who meet NSERC's eligibility requirements may participate as co-applicants. Other researchers (e.g., from academia, the public, private or not-for-profit sectors) can participate as collaborators. Refer to the Tri-agency guide on financial administration for more details on the eligibility of expenses you may incur in support of such collaborations. You are limited to one application as the applicant, but you can be a co-applicant or collaborator on more than one application.

NSERC and SSHRC will review all proposals to determine which agency's research areas they fall under. NSERC will provide funding for research primarily in the natural sciences and engineering fields, while SSHRC will support research primarily in the social sciences and humanities fields. NSERC funding will be provided as an Alliance grant, while SSHRC funding will be provided as a Partnership-type grant.

NSERC and SSHRC encourage the participation of early career researchers (ECRs) as applicants or co-applicants on grant applications. While applications led by ECRs will be assessed using the same evaluation criteria, the merit indicators used for the assessment include provisions for cases where the applicant's experience in managing projects or mentoring trainees is nascent.

Grants awarded as part of this initiative will support large-scale proposals, and so applicants are encouraged to involve researchers across several universities, colleges and disciplines, and to include multiple partner organizations in their application. To maximize the potential impact, benefits and knowledge mobilization of the research, at least one partner organization is required, however, collaboration with additional partner organizations is encouraged. Even though NSERC and SSHRC will cover 100% of the project's eligible costs, you must include at least one partner organization (from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors) whose cash contributions would have been recognized for cost sharing (see Alliance grants: Role of partner organizations for more details).

Safeguarding your research

At all times, Canadian researchers are encouraged to exercise appropriate levels of due diligence when managing their research and establishing and/or continuing partnerships with national, international and multinational partners. Resources to do so are provided by the Government of Canada on the Safeguarding Your Research portal.

NSERC’s funding will be provided as an Alliance grant; therefore, Canada's National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships apply to NSERC-funded applications that involve one or more partner organization from the private sector, including when they participate alongside other partner organizations from the public and/or not-for-profit sectors. These guidelines provide a framework through which researchers, research institutions and Canada's granting agencies can undertake consistent, risk-targeted due diligence to identify and mitigate potential national security risks linked to research partnerships.

No further information is required at the time of application. If your proposal includes substantial content in the natural sciences or engineering fields and includes one or more partner organization from the private sector, you and your postsecondary institution will be contacted at a later date by NSERC and asked to complete the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships' Risk Assessment Form. Instructions for completing and submitting the form will be provided at that time.

What's next?
Apply now


Application deadlines
Preparatory funding: May 8, 2023, by 8:00 pm (ET)
Full project funding: November 8, 2023, by 8:00 pm (ET)

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