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Agri-Food Innovations Awarded in Sudbury

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Agri-Food Innovations Awarded in Sudbury

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program 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 provincial 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: District of Algoma, District of Manitoulin, District of Sudbury, District of Thunder Bay, and Districts of Timiskaming and Cochrane.

Thompson's Maple Products -- Hilton Beach, District of Algoma (Leaders in Innovation Award recipient)

When you've got 20,000 trees in your maple sugar bush, monitoring the tap lines is no small task.  Doug Thompson was getting a little tired of trudging along each line, looking for damage in the plastic tubing.  So he teamed up with a computer programmer to develop a wireless remote monitoring system that reports the status of each line to his computer or smartphone every few minutes.  The new "Tap Track" system has increased Thompson's income, boosted production and reduced the number of staff repairing lines from five to two.  Because the system targets problems, leaks can be fixed faster.  That reduces the risk of bacteria, yeast and moulds getting into the sap, and compromising product quality.  For maple producers, Tap Track is one sweet technology.

Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association -- Manitowaning, District of Manitoulin

When farmers on Manitoulin Island want to protect the waterways that run through their property, they know who to call: the Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association.  Since 2001, this non-profit organization has been working with landowners, businesses, schools and government to restore cold-water streams on the island.  Over the past 12 years the organization has planted 23,887 trees to reduce erosion, installed more than 3,000 metres of fencing to prevent livestock from contaminating water, decommissioned two dams and set up livestock watering systems.  As well as improving wildlife habitat, watershed rehabilitation can double the productivity of a fishery.  On an island where fishery-driven tourism brings in millions of dollars a year, the entire community is reaping the rewards.

Boreal Berry Farm & Winery -- Warren, District of Sudbury

Imagine a berry bush that can survive temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius and produce fruit even earlier than strawberries.  Now imagine the product's antioxidant-loaded berries that combine the sweet-tart flavours of blueberries and raspberries.  Meet the haskap, also known as the honeyberry or blue honeysuckle.  Greg and Mira Melien have devoted 20 acres of their orchard to this deciduous shrub that thrives in northern climates.  As well as selling the fresh and frozen berries, the Meliens transform their harvest into haskap juice, wine, jams, jellies, wine gums and syrups.  In fact, these biodynamic farmers are such big fans of the berry that they've formed the Ontario Haskap Association to help other farmers across the province to grow and market it.

True North Community Co-operative -- Thunder Bay, District of Thunder Bay

You'll find plenty of co-operatives in Ontario's agri-food industry.  Some are producer-owned.  Some are consumer-owned.  And then there's the True North Community Co-op.  This food retailer in Thunder Bay counts consumers, producers and local organizations as members.  True North was established in 2008 to support small-scale farmers and build a stronger local economy by selling regionally sourced foods.  It puts more money in the pockets of farmers and reduces the number of kilometres that food travels.  It also creates closer links between field and table.  The model has proved highly successful, attracting more than 700 members and spawning an offshoot in the remote First Nation community of Fort Albany.

Golden Beef Producer Cooperative -- Val Gagné, Districts of Timiskaming and Cochrane

Beef producers in Timiskaming now have a competitive edge: knowledge.  A new custom-built online traceability system is giving the Golden Beef Producer Cooperative crucial abattoir data.  Cooperative members can compare their carcass yield data, helping them determine the optimal slaughter weight to maximize yield and profits for their forage-fed beef.  They can also monitor processing costs and use that information to set appropriate retail prices. Consumers benefit as well because the system creates full traceability.  Developed in partnership with another northern group of beef producers and an IT specialist, the affordable system is attracting plenty of interest from other small-scale producer groups and agri-food cooperatives.

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