Agriculture and agri-food


Provides food, fiber, and fuel. A foundation for health and prosperity.

GHG emissions

For agriculture: 10% of Canadian emissions (2% from energy use; 8% from agricultural practices). The full sector has additional emissions from input production and food processing, manufacture, and transport.

Options for decarbonization

Alternative cropping and soil management practices; low emission fertilisers, precision application. For animal agriculture: improved feeds and genomics; better manure management. Reduce meat and dairy in diets, with greater reliance on plant-based foods, or alternative proteins. Replace on farm fossil fuel use with electricity, biofuels, and hydrogen.

Stage of transition

Early emergence

Nature of the problem today

Complexity of addressing emissions from a geographically dispersed and heterogeneous sector, where most emissions result from the intersection of agricultural practices and biological processes. Heavy reliance on high input agriculture. Market, regulatory frameworks, and government programs that do not incentivize sustainable agriculture and land use.

Other systemic issues

Soil health, biodiversity loss, water pollution, food waste. Heath concerns: sugar, salt, highly processed foods, and proportion of animal protein in most diets. Concentration of ownership of agri-food sector. Migrant labour dependence.

Opportunities and concerns

Supporting rural communities. Building Canada’s reputation as a trusted food brand, with a growing role in international sustainable food markets. Climate impacts on agriculture: negative (drought, flooding, more extreme weather, vulnerability to pests and disease) and positive (longer and warmer growing seasons).

Priorities for action

Reform support programs to encourage improved agroecological practices. Align market actors (finance, processors, input manufacturers) to incentivise more sustainable value chains. Research, trials and promotion of alternative crop regimes and technologies to reduce nitrogen fertiliser inputs. Improve management of manure and ruminant diets. Research animal genomics, diet, inhibitors, to reduce enteric emissions. Encourage alternative proteins.

Longer-term issues

Address impacts of climate change on agricultural production. Explore soil and land-use based opportunities for large scale carbon sequestration. Develop agricultural production regimes that are more attuned to agroecological principles.

Indicators of progress

Fossil fuels as proportion of on-farm energy use. Reductions in nitrogen fertiliser application and reduced eutrophication. Increases in soil organic matter and soil organic carbon. Lifecycle GHG emissions per unit of protein.

Assessement table: Agriculture and agri-food

On farm energy use

Battery electric farm equipment

Biofuels for heavy farm equipment

Hydrogen fuel cells for heavy farm equipment

Renewable power generation (wind, solar, biomass)

Crop agriculture

More efficient fertiliser use (Improving fertilizer source, rate, timing and placement)

Improved crop regimes

Animal agriculture

Manure management

Food additives, food mixes, vaccines

Enhanced animal genomics

Dietary and production shift to plant-based proteins

Dietary and production shift to synthetic proteins

Agricultural paradigms

No till agriculture (minimizes soil disturbance)

Organic agriculture (avoidance of chemical inputs)

Precision agriculture (applies inputs tailored to conditions)

Vertical agriculture

Low input agriculture (hybrid that minimizes external inputs)