Wilf Keller is a visionary leader and respected scientist who contributed fundamental changes to plant breeding for canola in Canada and around the world. His 45-year career as an unassuming champion includes a drive for trailblazing research to make the Canadian Prairies a hub of agricultural development activity and economic prosperity.
Wilf was born in Melville, SK and began his career as a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan. Over the following decades, he pioneered innovations and championed the use of biotechnology to genetically modify crops. He advanced plant breeding technology in Canada with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa including chair of the plant biotechnology program, and held several positions with the National Research Council’s Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon including research director and acting director general.
His ground-breaking work on canola breeding techniques had a tremendous impact on the success of this made-in-Canada crop, contributing to its cultivation on more acres than any other field crop in the country and generating more than $26 billion in economic activity for Canada every year. Wilf was always on the leading edge of frontier science – with one foot in the lab and one on the farm to consider how to make research relevant and practical. He developed and commercialized the di-haploid tissue culture system in canola – a breakthrough advanced breeding technology that allows for rapid genetic improvements and is used by government, universities and industry plant scientists around the world.
When Wilf retired from active research in 2008, he continued advancing Canadian agriculture with his leadership and vision, supporting the plant biotechnology genomics and value-added processing sectors. As president and CEO of Genome Prairie, he brought research and industry together to advance genomic and bioscience-related R&D in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Since 2012, Wilf has served Ag-West Bio Inc. as president and CEO and positioned the company as an important participant in improving the public’s understanding of science and agriculture. He was instrumental in linking a vast range of partners to attract federal supercluster funding to establish Protein Industries Canada – an industry-led value chain consortium to develop higher protein content crops and post farmgate processing into food/feed ingredients to meet the growing global demand for protein.
Respected by the scientific community, academia, industry and farmers, Wilf is an extraordinary ambassador and tireless advocate for biotechnology. He has received numerous awards in recognition of his scientific achievements, including a Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and induction to the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame. His pioneering work and lifelong commitment to science continues to put Canadian agriculture on the world map.