CHRISTA ROETTELE, OMAFRA

The Ontario government is launching a modernized cost-share intake, as part of a $25.5 million program to increase the adoption of technological innovations within the agri-food sector, to enhance the health and safety of workers and improve the sector’s efficiency and productivity.


Today Minister Hardeman announced the Agri-tech Innovation Program, a $22 million cost-share program that will help farming operations and processor businesses adopt innovative and new technologies.


“This large investment is a significant step forward by our government in using innovative technology to guard against the spread of COVID-19 in agri-food workplaces and protect worker health and safety,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Through the adoption of advanced agriculture technology, we’re helping the sector find new and unique ways to address pandemic challenges, while at the same time setting agri-food businesses up for future growth and success in modern agriculture.”


This intake will support the implementation of sector-specific, unique and innovative technologies, in the workplace, [which] enhance the protection of workers against COVID-19, lead to increased business efficiencies and productivity, and help build the sector’s resilience. Subject to program eligibility criteria, applications for funding could include, for example, advanced technologies, such as optical grading and sorting systems in vegetable processing, or automated, robotic, vineyard pruning robots. Ontario will also invest in high-impact social projects for agri-food workers as part of this component.


The intake announced today is the second stage of the Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program, announced in Ontario’s fall 2020 budget. Under a separate stage of this broader program; the Sector Innovation Road Mapping program, up to $1.4 million was provided to agri-food organizations, to identify the best path forward for agri-food businesses looking to implement innovative technical solutions and develop best practices for the adoption of such technologies.


“This is an investment in the health and safety of our workers for today and in our sector for tomorrow,” said Minister Hardeman. “Our government strongly encourages the adoption of technological innovations [which] protect workers in both large and small agri-food businesses, where the risks are highest and the impact of technology on modernizing these businesses will be significant.”


“Technology and modern equipment make today’s farms more efficient and safer, both for people and the environment. Ontario farmers are excited at the prospect of working with the provincial government to further push innovation on the farm. This program will not only protect farmers and farmworkers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will enable investments in new processes and state-of-the-art equipment,” said Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture.


“The Ontario Tender Fruit Growers extends its appreciation for the Agri-tech Innovation Program [which] will enhance worker safety on our farms,” said Phil Tregunno, Chair, Ontario Tender Fruit Growers. “With the recent completion of an extensive analysis of the sector, we are well-positioned to implement labour-saving technologies [which] will help our competitiveness and grow the industry.”


The first intake will run from May 17th to June 21st, 2021. Further details about the intake will be available through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website, as of May 17th, 2021.