Northeastern Agri-Food Innovations Recognized
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 award recipients from Northeastern Ontario are:
Acres of Dreams - Timmins
When the Chicken Farmers of Ontario introduced the new Artisanal Chicken Program, Patsy and Harold Schmidt became the first producers in Northern Ontario to benefit from the increased quota provided by the program. But taking their 300 free run chicken operation to 3,000 wasn't without hard work. The Schmidts acted quickly to find appropriate breeds, implement biosecurity, arrange for feed delivery and chicken transportation and contend with limited abattoir capacity. In doing so, they've created jobs, provided northern consumers with local chicken and built a profitable operation that has laid the groundwork for other northern producers to follow.
Algoma Highlands - Wawa
Thanks to Mandi Ramdhanie and Trevor Laing, 605 acres of land outside of Wawa are now home to Ontario's first and only wild blueberry farm and winery. By implementing environmentally sustainable land clearing and low-bush cultivation techniques, the pair has successfully commercialized Ontario's indigenous blueberry plant. The operation is growing exponentially, producing nearly 64,000 kilograms of berries in 2015. On top of selling fresh and frozen blueberries, jams, syrups and BBQ sauces last year, Alogma Highlands diverted 450 kilograms of blueberries to five 1,000-litre fermenters and will be ready for fruit wine lovers in 2017. The company is introducing new products to market and creating new jobs in the community.
Fromagerie Kapuskoise Inc. - Kapuskasing
Cheese lovers can now enjoy French varieties produced here in Ontario. After studying cheese-making in France, François Nadeau teamed up with his father to open a fromagerie in Kapuskasing. The Nadeaus use a unique process that creates a rich, flavourful product. The pair worked with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to develop protocols allowing them to source milk from a single local dairy farm. The results are four cheeses that have impressed cheese retailers and consumers alike, while the single-source protocols have paved the way for a new type of terroir-driven cheese-making in Ontario.
Meeker's Management Service - Manitoulin
Severe weather regularly pummels Ontario's lakes. The pens used by offshore fish farmers in Northern Ontario often cannot withstand rough conditions caused by waves, storms and ice floes. For that reason, fish farms are often restricted to sheltered waterways, such as bays, where higher water temperatures mean lower oxygen levels that can stunt fish growth. Mike Meeker set out to revolutionize a pen that could withstand rough weather conditions. The aquaculture pioneer invented StormSafe, a submersible net pen with a unique design that creates stability. The innovation makes it possible to submerge the pens rapidly when severe weather hits. Meanwhile, the pen's larger size gives it another advantage over the competition. By improving offshore fish cultivation, Meeker's StormSafe is a step in the right direction to support a more profitable Ontario aquaculture industry.
Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance - New Liskeard
With affordable land and an innovative private sector, Northern Ontario is primed to diversify and support sustainable agriculture. However, producers interested in setting up operations in the North often have access to outdated directories. Now, with Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance's (NOFIA) online information hub, users can easily access accurate, relevant information about northern agriculture. With GIS maps, real estate directories and research reports about each area's unique attributes, the innovative platform provides producers with exactly the information they need. It also offers a forum to connect producers, as well as a listing of upcoming events and industry news. By connecting agricultural organizations, producers, agri-businesses and prospective farmers, NOFIA is making it easier for agriculture to expand in the North.