Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Dufferin, Haldimand, Norfolk, Perth and Wellington Counties
The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates agri-food producers, processors and organizations who 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 Counties of Dufferin, Haldimand, Norfolk, Perth and Wellington:
Holmes Agro - Dufferin County
Keeping track of crop plans on paper can be time-consuming. That's why Holmes Agro, an agricultural input retailer, partnered with a programmer to develop a better solution: MyFarm. Available online or as a mobile app, the information management tool uses satellite imagery to track where and when fields were seeded, fertilized and sprayed. The software lets users view multiple years of crop production data, including crop rotation, crop protection programs, fertility programs, soil sample results and crop budgets. The system is constantly updated and can be adapted to any size and type of crop production. Today, MyFarm gives more than 350 customers detailed information at their fingertips, enabling them to better assess the success of their growing programs, enhance profitability and plan for the future.
Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario - Dufferin County
The Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) has been calling on farmers, agricultural organizations and concerned citizens to assess their soil through a new campaign. Their catchy campaign asks people to take a pair of white, 100 per cent cotton briefs, bury them in the ground and then dig them up two months later. It's a quick and dirty way to assess soil health. If the briefs have decomposed, you've got healthy biological activity and organic matter. If not, the IFAO suggest using cover crops and other conservation methods to give your soil organisms a boost. Folks from as far away as Australia have been answering the call, learning about the importance of soil health one pair of underwear at a time.
Spring Knoll Dairy Inc. - Haldimand County
Before getting into the dairy business, Stanley Heeg toured existing farms to see what cost effective and efficient technologies and design options were available. The homework paid off. Today, his 50-cow dairy operation can be effectively managed by just two employees, thanks to a sophisticated robotic milking system. The high-tech equipment records milking times, milk volume and cow activity, making it easier to manage the herd. Flexible plastic stalls and feed fronts lead to improved comfort for cows. The barn is also energy-efficient, thanks to features like LED lights that operate on scheduled timers, variable-speed fans and automated manure-cleaning systems. Today, the optimized operation averages 3.2 daily milkings, producing 34 kilograms of high-quality milk per cow each day.
Woolleys' Lamb - Norfolk County
If you spot sheep wandering between the cherry trees at Woolleys' Lamb farm, don't worry - they're exactly where they're supposed to be. For owners Carrie Woolley and Brett Schuyler, letting their grass-fed livestock graze freely amongst their fruit trees makes perfect sense. The innovative process provides shade, shelter and space for the sheep to forage. In return, the grazing animals help improve soil health and save the operation more than $30,000 per year in grass-cutting costs. The eco-friendly approach demonstrates how farmers can create additional uses for their land, add a lucrative revenue stream and help meet Ontario's demand for local, grass-fed lamb.
Perth County Ingredients - Perth County
Canada's only egg-drying facility can't keep up with demand. Perth County Ingredients (PCI) has adapted an innovative vertical egg dryer from Europe to enhance its dehydration operations. The first of its kind in North America, the newly installed system can process eggs quicker than conventional dryers, increasing capacity and productivity. By optimizing the temperature, the processors expect the new technology will increase the shelf life and solubility of their powdered products, without compromising essential nutrients. Now, the company is eyeing customized products for specialty markets such as whey powder from liquid whey.
Bioenterprise Corporation - Wellington County
Ontario entrepreneurs launched an agri-food enterprise, which allows them to take advantage of AgRegKit a new software tool that makes navigating regulatory requirements easier for entrepreneurs. Bioenterprise's team of experts are also available to answer any questions as entrepreneurs make their way through the commercialization process. From labeling rules to livestock health standards and more, the guide's extensive database covers every aspect of the agri-business landscape. By simplifying the path to regulatory approval, the AgRegKit saves producers time and money. As a result, it ensures that more, great Ontario agri-food innovations make it to market, faster.
CanWest DHI - Wellington County
Good information leads to great herd management decisions and CanWest DHI is putting that information directly into the hands of dairy producers. Launched in 2015, the Mobile DHI app gives farmers all the key data they need right on their smartphone - average milk production, milk components, somatic cell counts, breed class averages and more. The ability to access data sooner, allows for farmers to react swiftly when concerns arise. As a result, Mobile DHI helps boost herd health, improve milk production and increase milk value. The first of its kind in Canada, the app is a powerful tool for modern producers and DHI advisors.
Green Table Foods - Wellington County
At Green Table Foods, good things are fermenting. The Guelph business is churning out organic kimchi, sauerkraut, beets, veggie pickle and even a unique fermented salsa. Since 2005, the company has been making nutritious, lacto-fermented vegetable foods with certified organic, farm-direct ingredients, one small batch at a time. Green Table sources their vegetables from local farmers and packs their products in reusable Mason jars. The results are flying out the door, some under their own name and some under private label. Over the next three years, they expect to ramp up their carrot and cabbage purchases by 75 per cent - great news for local veggie farmers and kimchi lovers alike.
Jewels Under the Kilt - Wellington County
Jewels Under the Kilt won a Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence in 2015 for their roasted Ontario nuts, produced in a range of intriguing flavours. Now the Fergus company has a new product to market. This year's award honours the company's resourceful thinking. Maple syrup is a featured ingredient in Jewels Under the Kilt's lineup of flavours, and that means lots of crystallized maple syrup left in the roaster once the nuts are done. Owner Elisabeth Burrow is now marketing the tasty, crunchy crystals as a unique Ontario treat, perfect for adding to salads, yogurt or ice cream or using just about anywhere you would use sugar. The sweet idea has boosted revenue, reduced waste and gained the artisanal roaster even more customers.
Thatcher Farms Butcher Shop, Bakery & Farm Market - Wellington County
At Thatcher Farms, you know exactly where your meat comes from. The husband-and-wife duo Dana and Adam Thatcher do it all, they breed, raise, butcher, process and retail their own beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey. They even grow their own animal feed on the 140-acre property. The farm welcomes thousands of visitors each year, offering tours, butchery demonstrations and cooking classes. It's a holistic approach that clearly benefits the bottom line. In less than four years, the farm's annual income has increased from just under $100,000 to over $1 million. Today, they employ 12 people - a number they plan to double this year - proving that connecting with consumers and adding on-farm value pays off.