AGR*4600 Agriculture and Food Issues Problem Solving

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

The issues facing the agriculture and food sector are many and varied and relate to the economy, the environment and society. Within these issues there are problems which require thoughtful solutions. Working in teams, with guidance from faculty advisors, students will have an opportunity to develop solutions to real-world problems facing the agriculture and food sector. In the process students will have an opportunity to develop their research, communication, presentation, writing and group work skills.

The Agri-Food industry is continually dealing with the challenges of a rapidly changing socio-economic environment. The industry requires employees that work effectively in teams, are technically knowledgeable, can identify and effectively solve problems through critical thinking, goal-setting and strong presentation skills, and have an elevated level of integrity and emotional intelligence. This course is designed to equip individuals and teams with training, tools and techniques that develop the soft skills required by the industry through means of actual topic challenges facing the Agri-Food sector


Teaching Assistant:

Isabelle Aicklen; Kurtis Pilkington; Courtney Higgins; Meaghan Mechler

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for course schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Apply knowledge of important agricultural and food industry trends and associated problems and challenges.
  2. Be critical and creative when applying solutions to industry issues
  3. Develop independent learning skills.
  4. Work with a group incorporating a variety of perspectives and personalities on an issue.
  5. Develop and improve written and oral communication skills.
  6. Gain experience in considering conciliation and compromise between positions on a given issue.
  7. Experience the challenges of applying academic knowledge to real-world problems.
  8. Find accurate and authentic information and to synthesize it into possible solutions to problems and challenges.
  9. Find and engage external experts.
  10. Incorporate external experts into issue events.
  11. Develop the ability for public engagement.

Lecture Content:

The students will be engaged in the following activities through-out the semester, through three individual general case studies and two group case studies:

  • ability to use critical thinking to scope complex industry problems
  • think creatively about designing solutions for complex industry problems
  • work in a professional manner with industry stakeholders
  • develop personal leadership in advancing foundational skills necessary to thrive in a distrusted economy
  • use multiple forms of communication (pitch, written, etc) to clearly articulate challenges, prototypes, solutions to influence decision makers and users
  • develop prototypes, seek feedback and pivot towards a solution(s)
  • design a solution that can be implemented
  • utilize the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework in which to develop solutions for the agricultural and food sector
Lecture Content

This course is intended to provide senior undergraduate students with an opportunity to engage in the development, presentation and defense of a solution to a current problem or challenge related to a topical issue in the agriculture and food area. Students will have an opportunity in groups and individually to explore a topic in detail and to gain sufficient understanding to be able to develop and defend a solution to a challenge/problem in a given topic area, to question and refute an opposing solution and to engage in developing a mutually agreeable position. The course is an opportunity for students to witness the range of topics relevant to agriculture and food, to consider these issues from a range of perspectives, to explore the dynamics of a group effort in developing a focused solution to a given problem or challenge, the response from an audience to their solution and the process of reconciliation between disparate positions and varied solutions. 

Independent Study & Turning Information into Knowledge

The value of this course is strictly related to the course objectives. As such, the value of this course is achieved through the process prescribed in the course. What you learn from this course, therefore, depends in greatest part upon the level of contribution you make. In the information age, information is cheap and readily available. Information is all around us all the time. The challenge presented in this course is to find accurate and authentic information and to consolidate and synthesize it into valuable knowledge while developing soft skills including working with others and presentation skills.

Presentation and Defense of Your Ideas

Returning to some of the traditions of university education, including critical thinking, and the Socratic method, in this course you will function as a member of a team, using knowledge and problem-solving skills gained during your university career to work with a team to develop a defensible solution to a particular problem or challenge on an agricultural or food issue. As a group you be given an opportunity to present your solution and to question the solution of an opposing group. The topics will be chosen via a democratic process (see below) and the instructor will then craft opposing problem or challenge statements for each issue. 

Agreement and Common Ground

Some level of reconciliation and going forward will be the final outcome of each debate where the two debate groups will be facilitated by the instructor to develop a reconciliation position between the opposing positions.


The individual and group case topics will be determined by the instructor. Groups will be formed early in the semester by the instructor..


Early in the semester you will be assigned to a team; you have undoubtedly had good and bad experiences with group-work, common in the working world. As a team member in this course you are expected to use your experience to establish a functional group, with clear expectations of, and commitment from, its members.


Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Course Assignments and Tests:

Individual Case Assignments 45%
Case 1: Food Waste     10%  
Case 2: Agri-Food Challenges 25%  
Group Case Assignments  55%
Case 1: Migrant Workers 20%  
Case 2: Carbon Sequestration 30%  
Professional Development 5%  

Final examination:

There is no final exam scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:


Lab Manual:


Other Resources:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

Unless otherwise stated assignments will be due prior to next class period. Penalties of 25% of assignment value per day will be applied to late submissions.  If you are having problems completing assignments for any reason, talk to your designated TA , the course coordinator  or one of the instructors. ALL ASSIGNMENTS MUST BE COMPLETED IN ORDER TO PASS THIS COURSE.

Extensions will be considered for medical reasons or other extenuating circumstances. If you require an extension, discuss this with the instructor as soon as possible and well before the due date. Barring exceptional circumstances, extensions will not be granted once the due date has passed. These rules are not designed to be arbitrary, nor are they inflexible. They are designed to keep you organized, to ensure that all students have the same amount of time to work on assignments, and to help to return marked materials to you in the shortest possible time

Group Policy on Course Work:

It is expected that everyone in a group contributes equally and fairly. Part of the evaluation is grading of group (team) members.  After each group assignment the team will evaluate each member on their performance of that activity through PEAR evaluation on CourseLink. The following table will be used for evaluation. Total scores after each group assignment will be waited against group mark for that particular assignment.

Skills Exceeds Expectations (10) Meets Expectations

Does not fully meet

Does not meet Expectations (0) Score
Contribution & Attitude Always cooperative. Routinely offers useful ideas. Always displays positive attitude. Usually cooperative. Usually offers useful ideas. Generally displays positive attitude Sometimes cooperative. Sometimes offers useful ideas. Rarely displays positive attitude Seldom cooperative. Rarely offers useful ideas. Is disruptive  
Cooperation with Others Did more than others. Highly productive. Works extremely well with others. Did own part of workload. Cooperative. Works well with others. Could have shared more of the workload. Requires structure, directions and leadership. Did not do any work. Does not contribute. Does not work well with others  
Team Role Fulfillments Participates in all group meetings. Assumes leadership role. Does the work that is assigned by the group. Participates in most group meetings. Provides leadership when asked. Does most of the work assigned by the group Participates in some group meetings. Provides some leadership. Does some of the work assigned by the group. Participates in few or no group meetings. Provides no leadership. Does little or no work assigned by the group.  
Accuracy Work is complete, well-organized, error-free, and done on time or early. Work is generally complete, meets the requirements of the task, and is mostly done on time. Work tends to be disorderly, incomplete, inaccurate, and is usually late. Work is generally sloppy and incomplete, contains excessive errors, and is mostly late.  
Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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