CHRISTA ROETTELE, Communications Branch OMFRA
The Ontario government is investing in new partnerships in agri-food innovation, including pilot projects in robotics and artificial intelligence, to help the industry address pandemic-related challenges and ongoing labour shortages, and create new opportunities for growth across the sector.
The Innovator Stream is the targeted, second phase of the Agri-tech Innovation Program, a $22 million program launched in April, to provide up to 60 percent funding for eligible costs, to a maximum of $750,000, to develop larger-scale collaboration projects, aimed at enhancing the health and safety of workers and increasing productivity.
“Investing in new technology will have tremendous potential to help our agri-food industry meet many of the current challenges it faces,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “I’m calling on agri-food businesses, commodity organizations and technology providers to join this exciting new initiative, and help protect the safety of agri-food workers while ensuring Ontario’s agri-food sector continues to lead across North American and around the world.”
The Innovator Stream intake focuses on ground-breaking projects, where innovation, such as piloting the use of autonomous farm equipment in an operational environment, is new to Ontario, North America or the agri-sector. Funding eligibility will include targeted, specialized, high-impact projects which pilot or demonstrate cutting-edge technology. Projects will require collaboration between at least two agri-food businesses, organizations and agri-food technology providers or developers.
“Innovation is the driving force of competitiveness in modern agriculture and the key to protecting our workforce while ensuring long-term success,” said Minister Thompson.
“To be a highly competitive food and beverage processing industry, globally, we must be forward-thinking [in] innovation,” explained Chris Conway, CEO, Food and Beverage Ontario. “This program will make it possible for leaders in technology and business to work together on priority issues such as labour productivity and develop new solutions [which] will benefit the entire industry.”
“The Agri-tech Innovation Program has been, and will be, instrumental to further mobilize the Ontario agricultural innovation and technology supply chain, and support the sector in meeting the demands of today and the future,” stated Ian Potter, Ph.D., President and CEO, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland). “Working collaboratively, to implement innovative business-focused technical solutions and develop best practices, is the path forward.”
The Innovators Stream intake will run from August 19th to September 27th, 2021.