Ontario Farmers Recognized For Their Innovations
Top two winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:
Premier's Award Recipient ($100,000)
Leamington Area Drip Irrigation - Leamington, Essex County
Ontario tomatoes are getting pumped over this innovation. The Leamington Area Drip Irrigation is a group of 13 farmers who wanted to improve water efficiency for their operations. They spent years consulting with agencies and specialists across Canada, using that expertise to design and construct a new communal irrigation system that increases the reliability of supply and quality of water to local producers. The 36 kilometre pipeline, pump house and filter system can precisely monitor the amount of water being delivered from Lake Erie to 2,500 acres of tomatoes in the Leamington area. Participating growers have seen a reduction in energy and input costs and an increase in the quality and yield of their crops. The fixed structure eliminates the need for much of the annual set-up associated with traditional drip irrigation and has reduced water costs in the growing season by 66 per cent.
Minister's Award Recipient ($50,000)
Tigchelaar Berry Farms Inc. - Vineland, Niagara Region
Dan and Jeff Tigchelaar are helping consumers "fall" in love with Ontario strawberries. Following successful trials in 2006, this farm adopted the concept of planting day neutral strawberries in the fall, rather than traditional spring planting dates. Their production system involves the use of floating row covers to promote late plant development and flower bud initiation for an early spring harvest. By integrating this new production system with an already existing day-neutral and traditional June-bearing strawberry operation, these growers are able to provide Ontario wholesalers and retailers a constant supply of fresh, local, high quality strawberries from May until late October.
About the Awards Program
Awards - The five-year, $2.5-million Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program is now in its fourth year. There can be up to 55 regional award winners chosen annually, with a cash prize of $5,000 each. From these winners, a Minister's Award of up to $50,000 and a Premier's Award of up to $100,000 are selected.
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 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, local food, and traceability initiatives.