Agri-Food Innovations Awarded in Guelph
The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes the success of rural communities, farms and food processing sectors and agri-food organizations in Ontario. Their innovations improve existing products, create jobs and grow the economy.
The program recognizes 50 regional awards, including a Premier's Award, a Minister's Award, and three Leaders in Innovation awards.
The following are award recipients of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence from Grey County, Huron County, Perth County, Simcoe County, Waterloo Region, and Welllington County.
Blue Mountain Village Association - Apple Pie Trail -- Town of Blue Mountains, Grey County
It may be called the Apple Pie Trail, but for tourists who hit the self-guided route through Ontario's apple country, pie is just the beginning. Apple lovers can enjoy a different experience at each of the 32 stops including: apple cider, apple wine, apple cheesecake, apple honey and apple bread, as well as art galleries and museums with apple-themed exhibits. Launched in 2009 by the Blue Mountain Village Association, the year-round trail encourages visitors to explore the country roads between Collingwood and Meaford and sample all the bounty on offer. The marketing venture has proved to be a huge success. The website attracted more than 12,000 visitors from 82 countries last year.
Metzger Meat Products -- Hensall, Huron County
What does it take to make a better burger? For the folks at Metzger Meat Products, it meant ditching their conventional patty machine, which produced tightly compressed patties in cookie-cutter sizes. Together with two equipment developers, they devised a new approach that uses fresh meat, rather than frozen, and keeps the grain of the meat intact, creating a softer, juicier product. To enhance the meat, they added flavour pockets packed with shallots, herbs, hot sauce or a host of other options. Meanwhile, different sizes give customers more choice. Best of all, each patty has a unique shape, helping you fool your backyard dinner guests into thinking the burgers they're eating were made from scratch.
Nott Farms (Ont.) Ltd. -- Clinton, Huron County
Across Ontario's farmland, plastic agriculture film covers greenhouses, crops, feed and more. But what happens once it reaches the end of its life? According to Nott Farms, the answer is reincarnation. The switchgrass producer has worked with a number of government, university and industry partners to develop a method for shredding, washing, drying and processing agriculture film into a fine powder. Mix the powder with switchgrass fibre and binding agents and voilà: a biocomposite fibreboard stronger than any comparable building material on the market. In 2013, Nott Farms expects to divert a million pounds of plastics from landfills. And with the U.S. government poised to ban formaldehyde in building materials, the timing of this new, green fibreboard couldn't be better.
Schroeders Farms -- Exeter, Huron County
These days, chicken producers from across the province are descending on Schroeders Farms. They are here to see the latest in ventilation and climate control: a state-of-the-art system the Schroeders have imported from Holland. The "Clima Unit" brings fresh air into the broiler building and controls temperature and humidity. A special filter system reduces dust and ammonia, creating healthier conditions both for chickens and workers. Healthier chickens spell more profits, since the birds reach market weight faster. The system also includes a heat exchanger that captures energy from outgoing air, cutting heating costs in half. Between the energy savings and the increased income, the Schroeders estimate the Clima Unit will pay for itself in less than five years.
Monforte Dairy -- Stratford, Perth County
In 2008, when rent at Monforte Dairy's existing location skyrocketed, the artisanal cheesemaker faced the challenge of securing enough money to build a new facility. So Monforte turned to its biggest believers - its customers. It sold shares in denominations of $200, $500 and $1,000, redeemable in cheese. While many farmers have turned to community-supported agriculture to finance their operations, this is the first time the model had been attempted by an Ontario food processor. Monforte customers came through, purchasing nearly 900 shares totalling more than $400,000. The money helped pay for one-and-a-half acres of land in Stratford and a brand new, environmentally sustainable cheesemaking plant. This year, Monforte is on target to reach $2 million in sales, with the help of cheese aficionados determined to keep their favourite producer in business.
Miller's Dairy -- Creemore, Simcoe County
Connoisseurs who prize the distinctive taste of a single malt scotch or single estate coffee can now enjoy another unique beverage: milk from a single herd of cows, bottled right on the farm. Launched last year, Miller's Dairy processes the milk from the farm's 120 purebred Jerseys, a breed known for milk rich in flavour, protein and calcium. The micro-dairy keeps more profit on the farm and creates more employment. It's also easier on the planet. The milk travels a matter of metres from barn to dairy, cutting food miles and greenhouse gas emissions. The dairy plant captures and recycles processing water, while reusable glass bottles cut down on waste. Meanwhile, consumers are snapping up the premium milk which is sold at Foodland, Sobeys and a variety of independent stores.
Sheldon Creek Dairy -- Loretto, Simcoe County
At Sheldon Creek Dairy, innovation is the name of the game. For starters, they are one of the first dairy farms in Ontario to process and bottle its milk onsite. These trailblazers were not content to use standard processing technology. A heat recovery system reclaims 90 per cent of the energy used to warm incoming milk. Similarly, the heat emitted from the bottle washer is captured to preheat the sterilization water. Meanwhile, the onsite store features more than the standard selection of homo, two per cent and skim. Check out Sheldon Creek's unique, non-homogenized milk made with cocoa powder, or take a peek in the "innovation corner" of the cooler, where you might find dulce leche, a new flavour of yoghurt or a tempting baked treat.
Foodlink Waterloo Region -- St. Jacobs, Waterloo Region
Perhaps you're looking for a shop that sells local honey. Or maybe you're in the market for a restaurant that serves up veggies from the farmer down the road. Foodlink Waterloo Region has an app for that. Since 2002, Foodlink has produced printed maps featuring over 100 local farms and food retailers. Now the organization has gone a step further, creating a mobile application that uses mapping technology to connect local food enthusiasts with sustainable food choices. Easy to update and easy to share, the pilot Buy Local, Buy Fresh Food App has been downloaded by more than 500 consumers in its first month, increasing awareness and sales of local food. Today, finding fresh, local food is as simple as pulling out your smartphone!
Martin's Family Fruit Farm -- Waterloo, Waterloo Region
They've got all the healthy goodness of apples, the satisfying crunch of potato chips and no fats, preservatives or added sugar to make you feel guilty. Martin's Family Fruit Farm's new apple chips might just be the perfect snack--and the perfect use for #2 apples. After a trip to Slovenia to learn how to make the addictive ring-shaped treats, the apple producers installed a 17,000-square-foot dehydration facility in Elmira. Now, instead of selling its low-value fruit to juice makers, Martin's Family Fruit Farm is transforming them into apple chips that promise to be a big hit in lunch boxes and desk drawers. The producer is targeting major retailers, wholesalers and food service companies, with first-year sales projected to exceed $3 million.
Organic Meadow Cooperative Inc. -- Guelph, Wellington County
Organic farmers unite! Behind the Organic Meadow label lies one of the most successful organic farmers' co-operative in Canada, bringing together more than 100 dairy, egg and grain farmers. Selling their products under a single brand allows small family farms to punch above their weight, benefiting from a jointly owned processing plant and collective marketing efforts. In addition, the co-operative stays on top of organic trends, technology and research, equipping members with the latest information. Scholarships are also available for young members heading off to college or university, while an agricultural exchange program gives farmers a chance to learn from colleagues around the world. From soil to table, the Organic Meadow Cooperative remains committed to preserving the family farm and a healthy environment.