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Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Guelph

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Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Guelph

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates agri-food producers, processors and organizations that are helping to create jobs, boost our economy, strengthen our communities and support a sustainable environment through their innovative ideas and projects.

The following are regional award recipients from Waterloo Region and Wellington County:

Be Seen Be Safe Ltd. - Guelph

In the event that a livestock disease hits, quick action is required to contain the outbreak. Biosecurity best practices require farm visitors to sign in and out of a facility. Compiling information from a physical logbook takes time that cannot be spared in the event of an emergency. That's why Joel Sotomayor and Tim Nelson have created a virtual visitor log, Be Seen Be Safe, that leverages GPS technology to create virtual borders around farms. When feed suppliers, veterinarians and other regular visitors cross the "geofence," an app on their smartphone generates an automatic entry into the virtual visitor log. Should an outbreak occur, the system sends an alert to other farms and service providers in the area. Producers in Canada and around the world are adopting the system, making it faster and easier to respond to outbreaks of dangerous diseases.

Biography of Food - Elora

Good data supports better business decisions, but many small-scale food companies often can't afford the cost of inventory and sales systems. Enter bioLinks. This innovative system uses barcodes and QR codes to track food products from farm to consumer, facilitating feedback up and down the food chain. bioLinks not only gives business owners crucial data, it also helps them tell a story behind the food they produce. With hardware costs of just over $1,000 and an annual subscription fee of $2,000, bioLinks is helping Ontario's small businesses compete with big producers, enhance their traceability capabilities, improve product quality, capitalize on food trends and respond to consumer demand for more information about the food they eat.

Farm & Food Care Ontario - Guelph

Best practices for livestock handling have evolved over the years. That is why Farm & Food Care Ontario has developed a continuing education program, Innovative Management and Practical Animal Care Training (IMPACT), that provides farmers with relevant, up-to-date information and skills development they need to handle livestock correctly. To date, more than 2,000 farmers have taken part in face-to-face training, but the IMPACT program's biggest presence is online. Tens of thousands of farmers, farm labourers, transport company employees and veterinarians have accessed the suite of virtual resources, which includes e-learning modules, illustrated whiteboard videos and smartphone apps. Equipped with that knowledge, they're improving standards of care for livestock - and helping everyone feel good about the way farm animals are raised in Ontario.

Katan - Rockwood

Quinoa, one of the world's most popular superfoods is now grown locally. Through five years of rigorous research, Katan's Jamie Draves developed and refined a non-GMO quinoa seed suited to Ontario's soil, climate and farming practices. It's the first variety to be commercialized in the province and boasts higher levels of protein, iron, magnesium, fibre and zinc than its South American counterpart. The 22,000 kilograms of quinoa grown on 250 acres last year is projected to bring in $800,000 in sales - a figure Draves expects to double in 2017. With the product currently available online, at local trade shows and in health food stores, Katan is ramping up production of the profitable crop, expanding into other provinces and constructing a processing facility to keep up with demand.

Local Line Inc. - Kitchener

Consumers love local food. And now, putting Ontario food on the menu just got easier for restaurants and institutions, thanks to Local Line. Cole Jones developed the online order management platform, which lets chefs buy directly from growers without the hassle of placing dozens of different orders. A flat-rate monthly subscription fee gives them access to a slew of meats, dairy products, grains, fruits and vegetables. Local Line makes inventory management easy and simplifies delivery schedules. Meanwhile, participating farmers pay a percentage of the total order. For that fee, they enjoy the predictability of advance orders, enabling them to harvest and ship exactly what's needed. Launched in 2014, the site has brought together 230 registered buyers and suppliers in Ontario, Calgary and select U.S. sites.

Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association - Guelph

Each year, Ontario growers lose more than $24 million of fruit each year to wild birds. Looking for a better way to protect crops, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association partnered with researchers from Brock University to install American kestrel nesting boxes near orchards and corn fields. These birds of prey feed on smaller bird species, as well as insects, mice and voles, offering a natural approach to damage control. The low-cost, low-maintenance method is effective: the number of nuisance birds dropped 20 to 30 per cent on operations where the nesting boxes were installed. And while farmers enjoy bigger harvests, they can also feel good knowing that they're helping to reverse the decline of kestrels in Ontario.

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