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Regional Innovations Awarded In Ancaster - 2011

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Regional Innovations Awarded In Ancaster - 2011

The following are Regional Award winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:

HALTON REGION:

Springridge Farm - Milton

Springridge Farm has introduced a new "crop" on their farm wagon rides. When two grown children came back to work full-time on the Hughes' family farm, the pressure was on to make the operation more sustainable. They knew how much people enjoyed wagon rides to their sour cherry, strawberry and raspberry fields, so they jumped on the idea to broaden the wagon's use. They built four custom wagons and developed a ride/tour program that offers fun and educational activities, while also marketing their farm products. Show-and-tell rides run from April to October and have become the cornerstone of nearly all of the farm's programs. Today, Springridge Farm employs 100 staff to help with birthday parties, school and senior tours, and corporate events. It also uses Facebook and Twitter to help market new products, such as cook books for kids and a "Royal Marmalade" in honour of this year's British royal wedding.

HAMILTON-WENTWORTH REGION:

Dunlea Farms Pet Hay - Jerseyville

Pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters need hay in their diet but many owners find keeping hay in pens messy and wasteful until now. Tidy Feeder is a hanging, recyclable, hay package that makes hay feeding more convenient for pet owners while keeping the pen tidy. You can find the Tidy Feeder at 300 retail stores across Canada and soon it will be available in the United States, Singapore and Japan. As well as offering a great new product for pet owners, this innovation is creating jobs in rural Ontario and increasing the market for great Canadian hay products.

HAMILTON REGION:

Hamilton Eat Local - Environment Hamilton - Hamilton

It was only a 20-minute bus ride away, and for more than 400 people it offered the experience of a lifetime. Hamilton Eat Local, an initiative put together by Environment Hamilton and other community partners, organized monthly bus trips to six farms not normally accessible by public transit, offering non-drivers, seniors and others an opportunity to learn more about local food, buy farm fresh produce and enjoy a wonderful day in the countryside. They plan to expand this very affordable and popular program next year and add "eat local" dinner events.

NIAGARA REGION:

Hughes Vineyards -  Beamsville

Allowing the vine to grow as naturally as possible is the way Hughes Vineyards produces the grapes that are in demand by some of the best wineries in Ontario. Over the last 10 years, Hughes Vineyards has embraced the principles of biodiversity by looking for new ways to improve natural methods of controlling vigour, pests, and vine balance while reducing the need for artificial methods. Using native Niagara flowering plants to attract natural predatory insects in large enough populations, they are able to eliminate the need for insecticides and miticides. These beneficial plants also establish a cover crop that helps to control grape vine vigour. This innovative approach has allowed Hughes Vineyards to reduce operating costs by almost 10 per cent per acre, a significant achievement.

Orchard Park Growers Ltd. - St. Catharines

Orchard Park Growers are providing a quality home-grown product that's adding a bouquet of colour to Ontario gardens. The innovative greenhouse growers have developed a local source of affordable, quality gerbera seedlings for sale to other Ontario growers, who previously had to import them. And they're nurturing their plants in an environmentally-friendly way. The operation collects all runoff water for sterilization and reuse. The greenhouse's propagation space is controlled by an environmental computer system, which oversees climate control and fertilizer use. All this effort and investment has paid off. Orchard Park now supplies the majority of Ontario's gerbera growers with affordable, quality seedlings. It has also tripled finished potted gerbera sales in just six years, distributing their products in Canada and the U.S. Thanks to this innovative grower's vision, everything's coming up daisies.

Sun-Ray Orchards Inc. - Beamsville

If you like fresh, local raspberries, you'll be happy to know that Sun-Ray Orchards has found a way to harvest them for up to 10 months of the year. Owners Larry and Trevor Short are using a simple innovation to produce this delicious fruit. They've adapted a trellis system within a side-vented hoop house, a cold storage area and 20,000 square feet of space, previously used for lettuce seedlings, to grow their current crop of raspberries. Each plant grows in an individual pot, making it portable and easier to control disease and pests. The berries are protected from the harsh elements and the result is a larger berry with a more intense taste and a longer shelf life. Because of this bright idea, Sun-Ray Orchards' is enjoying the fruit of its labours.  

Sweet & Sticky Inc. - Niagara Falls

Ice Syrup is a hot new commodity in the gourmet food market, thanks to Steve Murdza. A few years ago, this second-generation grape grower was bringing in a haul of frozen grapes for transformation into ice wine, when he started thinking about other possible uses for the fruit. His idea has resulted in a new product - a rich-flavoured, non-alcoholic syrup that has many potential food applications. The syrup is made through an evaporation process that brings the grape juice to a stable syrup consistency, without boiling or caramelizing. Since its introduction, demand for Sweet & Sticky Inc.'s Ice Syrup has been growing. It has been featured in the largest wine publication in the world, the Wine Spectator, and was presented to royal dignitaries. It now supplies high-end restaurants as well.

NIAGARA REGION, WELLINGTON AND LAMBTON COUNTIES:

Moyer and Rowe Family Farms - Vineland

In the Niagara Region where it takes four years to pick the first peach, the Moyer and Rowe Family Farms needed a crop with a quicker return on investment. So they planted wheat between the rows of peach trees. They chose Red Fife, the ancestor of most of the wheat grown in Canada and a variety that is much in demand these days. With a stone mill from Belgium and a commercial pasta machine from Montreal, they turned this heritage wheat into fresh pasta, which is sold at farmers' markets, retail outlets and soon, direct to restaurants. By milling small batches, they are able to retain the wheat germ, resulting in a pasta with a high level of bio-available vitamins and nutrients.

NORFOLK COUNTY:

Kent Kreek Berries - Simcoe

Blueberries are a popular treat, but picking and preparing them for sale takes a lot of time and hard work. Kent Kreek Berries is using specialized blueberry harvesting equipment that cleans, sorts and grades blueberries on the go and drives itself! The farm has modified equipment to make it more efficient at harvesting mature high bush blueberries, which has increased the yield on the 16-acre operation by five percent, or 10,000 pounds. That's a lot of blueberries! These improvements have encouraged Kent Kreek Berries to expand its acreage and consider more value-added activities like a winery and agri-tourism. Other blueberry growers, and raspberry growers as well, are interested in adopting this technology.

PEEL REGION:

Fresh Sprout International Limited - Mississauga

Food safety is at the top of consumers' shopping lists. Bean sprouts can be vulnerable to contamination, but this innovator has found a way to reduce that risk. John Wang uses cutting-edge technology to germinate and grow his company's crop of Mung beans. He and his staff use automatic micro-controlled growing machines and state-of-the-art packing technology to produce individual bags of bean sprouts for the consumer. This environmentally friendly, fully automatic business has been awarded a Gold Standard under the Guelph Food Technology Centre's Food Safety and Quality Systems Audit program. The home-grown product carries the Foodland Ontario logo and its individual packing helps extend shelf life for both retailers and consumers. It's another great idea that is sprouting in Ontario.   

BRANT COUNTY:

Duizer Farms - Burford

Milk is flowing more smoothly at Duizer Farms thanks to their innovative robotic dairy barn design. By bringing together different innovations from various barn designs, Arie Duizer and his wife Lisa, have come up with a single design that eliminates barriers found in traditional robotic barns. Their innovation makes it possible for a single producer to manage a milking herd of up to 120 cows. And for the smaller dairy producer, it means less time in the barn - and more time to spend with family. 

The Duizers' barn features a central handling facility and specialized gating that allows for quick, easy sorting of cows and application of routine treatments.  Their investment has paid dividends in labour savings and improved herd health and productivity. The barn's design has both of the robots facing the same direction, so cows don't need to be retrained if they're moved to another group. And perimeter feeding provides for cow stalls that are shaded and out of the rain, which improves cow comfort. The Duizers have shown that - if you build it, they will come. And it's not just the cows that are coming home...more than 1,000 dairy producers from around the world have come to visit their barn.  In addition the Duizer Farms received the Minister's award for this innovation.

ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program recognizes and rewards outstanding innovations developed by farmers, agri-food businesses and organizations.  

There have been 55 winners each year, including a Premier's Award recipient and a Minister's Award recipient

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation program was initially funded for a period of five years starting in 2007. In November 2010, the McGuinty government announced that it will continue to recognize agri-food innovation excellence through a permanent program. 

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