Regional Innovations Awarded In Espanola
The following are Regional Award winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:
Penokean Hills Farms Inc. - Iron Bridge
There's good eating and good profits in high-quality beef cattle raised on field peas and barley. This group of farmers generates extra income by growing feed crops that are adapted to northern Ontario conditions. This, along with a strict genetics protocol and a strong marketing strategy for boxed frozen and fresh beef cuts, is a profitable combination. Their ground beef, for example, regularly sells out at a $1-per-pound premium. By using local feed instead of importing from southern Ontario, the group has also lowered their carbon footprint.
Meeker's AquaCulture - Evansville
Meeker's AquaCulture has developed environmentally-friendly compost by mixing by-products from Ontario's fish and forestry industries. Mike Meeker thought there had to be a better destination for these by-products than the local landfill. He experimented by churning fish offal and sawdust together in a modified cement truck on his farm. The result is a successful compost product that has a high nutrient value for lawns, flower beds and field crops. Today, approximately 1.5 million pounds of fish by-product from other fish producers in Northern Ontario are used in compost production. Up to 40 tonnes of compost are produced each week. The product, sold in 30 lb tote bags, has attracted big retail partners like Costco, and has drawn praise for its quality from organic growers.
RAINY RIVER DISTRICT:
Lowey's Produce - Fort Frances
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Blair Lowey used these principles to rebuild and retrofit his operation with a high efficiency greenhouse and heating system. He designed new heat retention and heat generation systems that have improved efficiencies throughout the greenhouse process. The new clean energy boiler runs on biomass gasification. As a result, Lowey's Produce has reduced electrical energy costs by as much as 40 per cent, and totally eliminated its natural gas costs. The innovation allows the production of more products and crops year-round, which is significant in northern Ontario.
Nurtural Horse - Worthington
In 1997, Gerry Guy and Zoe Brooks bought a 500-acre horse farm. There was just one hitch - they'd never owned a horse before. By 2004, they were raising Canadian horses and mastering the basics of natural horsemanship, viewed as a kinder, gentler way of training horses. These horse whisperers have also developed a bitless bridle that enhances control and communication during horse training. The patented product, The Nurtural Bitless Bridle, is now sold in 46 Canadian tack stores and in Europe. This husband-and-wife team has gone from novice to innovative leader, creating jobs and contributing to the equestrian industry. Nurtural Horse is a galloping success.
Sudbury West Nipissing Abattoir Producer Group - Massey
While it's currently mainly about the beef, this operation will soon be about hogs and sheep, too. At the end of August 2008, a group of producers and a meat retailer invested enough capital to re-open a meat plant at a local store. The abattoir is now slaughtering 20 head of cattle per week, with plans to expand to other livestock. The partners are also looking to create a regional brand of beef. Consumers are getting locally raised meat, the growers have lowered their costs by having a local slaughterhouse, and the local economy benefits from the jobs the enterprise has created.
ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM
Awards - The five year, $2.5 million Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence is now in its third year. The Premier's Award can be up to $100,000; the Minister's award can be up to $50,000. There are up to 55 regional awards, valued at $5,000 each.
Who is eligible? - A farmer, primary producer, groups of farmers, combination of agri-food businesses, or an agri-food related organization are all eligible for recognition under this initiative. A farmer must be one of the applicants of any group. This program is not intended for the research community as there are other government recognition programs available to this sector. Applicant/nominees must reside in Ontario and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Ontario Public Service staff and their immediate family are not eligible to apply for this program.Types of eligible innovations - Examples of innovations for this program include (but are not limited to) improved farm practices, responding to consumer demands, environmental stewardship, health and safety on the farm, energy innovations, education and marketing of agriculture to society, and promoting local food.