Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Toronto
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 Toronto:
Food Starter - Toronto
Food Starter, a not-for-profit organization, offers facilities and services to help new food enterprises get off the ground. The space includes a commercial bakery, several purpose-built kitchens, a packaging area and more. Entrepreneurs can also benefit from a selection of training courses, as well as, mentoring, consulting, bulk buying arrangements and shared marketing. In the past two years, Food Starter has helped entrepreneurs introduce 300 new food products to the market, creating demand for a variety of Ontario products, from cucumbers to crickets to corn.
FoodShare - Toronto
TTC subway commuters now have healthier, local food options, thanks to FoodShare. Over the years, the Toronto organization has spearheaded dozens of innovative food initiatives. The latest - Grab Some Good - involves pop-up produce shops in three subway stations. Since the launch in March 2016, the shops have sold more than 30,000 pounds of fresh, affordable fruit, vegetables and healthy snacks. It's a model that could easily be expanded across Toronto and beyond. By putting the emphasis on local produce, Grab Some Good is supporting Ontario farmers, reducing food miles and making good food choices easy for commuters to pick up on the way to or from work.
Fresh City - Toronto
Today, time-crunched consumers are looking for quick, easy-to-prepare meal solutions. Since 2016, Fresh City has been offering tasty, organic "meals in a jar" delivered to your door. It's a simple and eco-friendly concept: high-quality food, with an emphasis on local ingredients, packaged in glass jars that can be returned and reused. What sets Fresh City's meals apart is vacuum sealing -- a process that ensures a five-day shelf life. Each week, the Toronto company delivers 2,000 jars of salads, soups and meals that include world foods such as butter chicken, Korean beef stir-fry and vegan meatballs. To date, the handy jars have created $1.2 million in annual revenue, 20 new direct jobs and millions of dollars in local economic
Could Hamilton benefit from more food warehousing facilities? How can Halton Region best support its rural economy? Across the Greater Golden Horseshoe and eastern Ontario, municipal planners and economic development officers are now able to answer these types of questions with greater access to solutions at their fingertips. In 2013, the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance hired a data consultant to develop an agri-food mapping tool. It began with just seven municipalities and has grown to include 42 with 80,000+ data points. Users can search and create maps, making it easy to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of agri-food assets, reveal trends, and identify gaps and emerging economic opportunities. The platform is also designed to be expandable -- not just to other regions but to other sectors as well.
Greenbelt Farmers' Market Network - Toronto
The Greenbelt Farmers' Market Network knows that small investments can yield big results. That's where their new micro-funding program comes in. The initiative covers up to 50 per cent of equipment costs for new projects. In 2016, that support helped 33 successful applicants expand their product offerings, attract new customers, scale up production and hire new employees. For example, a grower from Brampton used the micro-funding to transform an old pop-up tent trailer into a kitchen trailer to sell farm-to-fork, ready-to-eat meals at farmers' markets. The investments are modest, but the impact felt by participants and consumers is vast with a reported nearly half a million dollars of sales impact in 2016.
M-C Dairy Limited - Toronto
Move over, Miss Muffet: there's a whole new market for your whey. In the past, M-C Dairy Limited sold the excess liquid from cottage cheese production as pig feed. Today, they're transforming that whey into a unique protein drink. At full capacity, the new value-added product line could potentially use 1,000 litres of whey by-product. It also offers a local and nutritious alternative to water-based sports beverages that are often packed with sugar and artificial flavours. M-C Dairy currently has one product on shelves today, with three more flavours featuring natural fruit juice concentrates in the works.
Sanada Foods - Toronto
Your favourite cured meat is moving beyond the deli counter and into the snack aisle. Sanada Foods has developed Salami Chips - a baked meat snack that contains no gluten, fillers or MSG. Made from meat sourced exclusively from Ontario producers, each bag contains a hefty 17 grams of protein. After testing different approaches with his mom's salami, Sandro Micieli built a packaging machine, rented a small commercial kitchen and began selling to local grocery stores. It didn't take long before consumer appetite for the novel product began to outpace production. In response, Sanada Foods partnered with a large food distributor and meat manufacturer and is currently building a new, 2,300-square-foot facility to keep up with demand for its flavourful, charcuterie chip.