AGR*4600 Agriculture and Food Issues Problem Solving

course node page

The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2018 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:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to Web Advisor for course schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

Specific Learning Outcomes:

  1. Industry knowledge- Apply knowledge of important agricultural and food industry trends and associated problems and challenges.
  2. Critical and creative thinking- Develop a critical and creative thinking approach to apply to industry issues
  3. Teamwork- Develop a final product by incorporating a variety of perspectives through engaging with others in a group setting.
  4. Communication- Demonstrate an ability to communicate evidence-based perspectives and solutions
  5. Knowledge mobilization -Interpret and integrate multiple sources of information and apply them to real world problems
  6. Community engagement -Identify and engage in meaningful conversations with community members and industry experts
  7. Professional and ethical behavior -Build an emotionally intelligent mindset to develop a holistic approach to self-reflection and working with others.

Lecture Content:


  1. Problem Solving Basics: Approaches to innovation and creative problem solving. Human-centered-design. Mindset: Creative confidence, Prototyping Fail fast/fail forward, Empathy Embrace ambiguity, Optimism Iterate, iterate, iterate
  2. Problem Lab: Problem discovery, analysis and definition. Practice with tools and process.
  3. Inspiration focus: highlevel inspiration focusing on the power of problem solving in the agricultural industry.
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Theories pertaining to emotional intelligence. How to identify individual driving needs and thinking preferences. Communication and conflict management tools to enhance emotional intelligence.
  5. Team Dynamics: Understanding group dynamic theory based on individual thinking preferences and profiles.
  6. Making Box Improv for business training: Active listening. Agile communication. Increased creative thinking. Promotion of collaboration.
  7. Problem Lab:
    • Research focus: Understanding the importance of human-centered design. How do we get to the root of the problem? Help students design an immersive experience to understand the users experiencing the identified problem. 
    • Defining users: stakeholder diagrams/empathy maps
    • Secondary research: Review tools from first problem lab to work towards problem discovery, analysis and refinement
    • Primary research: Basics of how to design and conduct interviews (group,individual and expert) as a method to understand problem at a deeper level
    • Project planning: How do we get this all done?
  8. Making Box Improv for business training: Active listening. Agile communication. Increased creative thinking. Promotion of collaboration.
  9. Research Best Practice: Reinforcement of evidence-based desicion-making practices. Understanding how to determine industry research best practice (whatare credible sources, how to access, etc.) and how to communicate it.
  10. Introduction of CBaSE Ideation Station
  11. Focus on growing, advancing, commercializing a solution
  12. Tell the story: Pitch coaching to effectively communicate solutions to a broad audience
  13. Flash Solving Exercise
  14. Showcase Presentations Preview
  15. Showcase Solutions


Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

  1. Individual Professional Portfolio - 50%
    • Broken Down by:
      • CourseLink Profile - 5%
      • Individual lecture assignments and media monitoring (due start of following class) - 15 %
      • Presenter evaluations (due start of following class) - 15%
      • Team and me evaluations - 10%
      • Flash solving - 5%
  2. Group Case Exercise - 30%
  3. Showcase event - 20 % 

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:

Class attendance is essential to complete weekly assignments since they are directly related to the lecture content. 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 one of the instructors

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. 

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

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

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:


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact the Student Accessibility Services (SAS), formerly Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD), as soon as possible.

For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email or visit the Student Accessibility Services website:

Course Evaluation Information

Your ratings and comments are important.  Course evaluation data are used to assess and enhance the quality of teaching and student learning at the University of Guelph.  Student course ratings and comments are used as an important component in the Faculty Tenure & Promotion process, and as valuable feedback to help instructors improve their teaching effectiveness and to improve the delivery of the course.

Your responses will not affect your grade.  Course evaluation data are distributed to individual instructors after final grades have been submitted to the Registrar, following the completion of each academic semester.

Please be honest, respectful, constructive and thorough.  Instructors and review committees place great value on student course ratings and read all comments provided in course evaluations. It is helpful to provide comments on the strengths of the course, in addition to the areas for improvement.  Please refrain from personal comments unless they relate to teaching and learning.

Click here for the University of Guelph Course Evaluation System