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Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in St. Catharines

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Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in St. Catharines

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates agri-food producers, processors and organizations that are helping 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 the Halton and Niagara regions:

Cave Spring Cellars - Jordan Station

Since Cave Spring Cellars opened its doors in 1987, production has grown from 2,000 cases of wine a year to 70,000. In an effort to reduce both septic and wastewater costs associated with an increase in production, the winery partnered with the Wine Council of Ontario's Sustainability Committee and the Bloom Centre for Sustainability. Together, they piloted an innovative, eco-friendly approach to wastewater treatment. Initial tests of the low-energy, low-cost modular unit achieved pollution levels far below discharge limits for the Niagara Region. Inspired by those results, Cave Spring Cellars installed a full-scale system, becoming the first winery in the world to use a fully biological system to purify its wastewater.

Chicken Farmers of Ontario - Burlington

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) became Canada's first major player in the agricultural sector to electronically connect its entire supply chain by adapting technology from SAP -- a leader in enterprise management software -- to create CFO Connects. Thanks to CFO Connects, more than 1,000 farmers, 17 processors, 3 hatcheries and 19 transport companies can now conduct a range of daily business transactions online. The new system also increases traceability across the supply chain, with real-time tracking of medications, vaccinations and flock movements. The result is a stronger, more integrated Ontario chicken industry that delivers enhanced farm and food safety.

Northend Gardens 1991 Inc. - Jordan Station

While visiting family in the Netherlands, the owner of Northend Gardens discovered Medinilla Magnifica, a pink cascading flower unknown in Canada and the United States. After acquiring the exclusive rights for North American distribution in 2010, Northend Gardens set out to adapt these tropical blooms to Ontario's growing conditions. They soon found out that the flowers required a very specific light, water and temperature regime as well as a precise growing schedule. With the help of a team of researchers and consultants, 60,000 plants were successfully produced in 2011 and by 2016, annual production hit nearly 100,000. With no shortage of customers, Northend Gardens has staked out a high-end niche, selling their medinillas wholesale for $10 to $17 per plant.

Tigchelaar Berry Farms Inc. - Vineland

When thrips infested Matthew Tigchelaar's strawberry crop and the insects became resistant to traditional pesticides, he turned to biological pest control -- a greenhouse practice not typically used in open fields. He worked with a biological control company to develop a plan to manage the thrips using mites and insects. Planting ornamental peppers and alyssum around the strawberry fields created a home for these natural predators, and in just two years he beat the thrips back to manageable levels. The victory has boosted Tigchelaar's berry harvest and proved that using beneficial insects for pest management is indeed possible for outdoor crops.

Vineland Growers' Cooperative Ltd. - Jordan Station

Ontarians are now able to enjoy more locally-grown pears, thanks to a new blight-resistant pear variety developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Vineland Growers' Cooperative licensed the new pears and adopted state-of-the-art, atmosphere-controlled storage technology to keep the harvest fresh throughout the winter. The new pears feature a firm texture, sweet taste and large size. Half a million of the pears hit the market in fall 2015 and by early January 2016, retailers were sold out. Plans to double production are now underway with sub-licensing agreements helping growers in other parts of Canada.

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