AgriFood Innovations Awarded in Ancaster
August 16, 2012
About the Awards Program
The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes the success of our rural communities, farms and food processing sectors. Their innovations improve existing products, create jobs and drive economic growth.
This year, the program is recognizing 50 regional award recipients across Ontario. From these regional recipients, a Premier's Award, a Minister's Award, and three new "Leaders in Innovation" awards will be chosen and announced in the fall of 2012.
The following are regional award recipients of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:
Andrews Scenic Acres Inc. - Halton Hills/Milton
Innovation has been the philosophy of this farm since 1980 when Lauraine and Bert Andrews began their adventure. First, there is the 100-acre Pick Your Own berry farm that has everything from blueberries to raspberries to black currants. Then, there is the fruit winery that produces award-winning amber, black raspberry and black currant wines, and recently added home-produced grape wines to the shelves. An on-farm market sells not only berries but also root vegetables and cut flowers fresh from the fields. And to top it off, there are numerous cost and energy-saving production innovations including an underground winter storage area for dahlia bulbs.
Beechwood Cattle Company and VG Meats - Simcoe
Two heads are far better than one in the case of this producer/food processor duo. Combining the skill and expertise of a producer and processor has meant getting the tenderest and tastiest meat products to customers and a better return for each partner. Cattle production and beef processing have been fine-tuned to meet specific retailer and consumer expectations, such as adopting whole herd vaccination protocols and collecting metrics to ensure efficient production methods. Further, the partners have shared the lessons they've learned with many others during farm and plant tours. Their efforts have garnered both the Meat Industry Achievement Award and an Ontario's Finest Meat Competition Platinum Award.
Puddicombe Cider Company - Stoney Creek
Farming and innovation have been part of the Puddicombe family for eight generations. They grow a variety of fruit on their Winona farm and operate their own winery. While studying agriculture at the University of Guelph, one of the family's younger members discovered a British cider made from fermented pears. He found it too sweet for his taste, but liked the idea that it was made with pears, which also grow on the family farm. Working with the company's winemaker, they undertook months of research, trials, and samplings to come up with the perfect balance and taste for their pear cider. Others are benefiting from the fruits of their labour too. Last year, the company bought 78,000 kg of pears from local producers who would otherwise not have a market for their fruit.
Burning Kiln Winery Inc. - St. Williams
What happens when a former tobacco grower with 40 years experience, a steel company owner, dentist, accountant, business entrepreneur, and two lawyers get together? They pool their expertise and form Burning Kiln Winery, which produces internationally acclaimed Ontario wines. The group's story began in 2006, when they planted high quality French vinefera varietals on 23 acres of land that previously grew tobacco. The winery converted displaced tobacco kilns into high tech, award-winning, wine-making machines. Grapes are hand picked into pallets and stacked in the kilns for drying. The air flow through the kilns allows for even drying and reduces spoilage. This ancient Italian process of drying grapes before fermentation intensifies the wine's flavour profile and increases the sugar content. The result is a great tasting, Ontario wine that shows innovation is thriving in Norfolk County.
Ontario Popping Corn Company - Walsingham
Livia and Blair Townsend sell their popping corn across Canada and internationally. They also supply a Cambridge (Ontario) company with all of the popping corn that goes into schools across Ontario as healthy snacks. But they had a vision to create something that would add even more pop to their sales. The Townsends developed an innovative cob cleaner that uses automated "fingers" and rotating brushes to clean silk and dust from cobs without removing the kernels. Replacing this time-consuming labour that was previously done by hand has helped to double production. Through trial and error, they refined the machine so that the brushes and rollers adjust to different cob sizes moving along the line. This machine is 100 per cent Canadian, unique and original to the popcorn sector. It has helped the company fill larger orders, gain new customers and increase its revenues.
Moyer's Candy Apples Ltd. - Vineland
What makes apples even sweeter to bite into? Paul Moyer can tell you. His family has been growing apples in the Niagara Region for more than a century. A few years ago, Paul started making candy apples as an alternative market for the farm. He found success, counting the Toronto Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Buffalo Bills and Six Flags parks among his customers. But his product only had a three-day shelf life, so he began exploring ways to extend that. Today, Moyer's Candy Apples produces a unique caramel and chocolate candy apple that stays fresh for weeks. The secret is in the customized, processing production line - the only one of its kind in Canada. This year, production is expected to reach 10,000 gourmet apples per day. That's good news for Paul, good news for local apple growers who augment his supply - and great news for sweet toothed customers.
P R Short and Son - Vineland Station
This innovator built a better basket that keeps fruit fresher longer, with less damage from transport and is more attractive to consumers, who can really see what they are buying. Research for the product included input from retailers who said they needed something they could stack, didn't require a lot of staff handling for display and could extend product shelf life. The recyclable clear plastic container with a lid that everyone sees in the stores now ticked all the boxes - and more. It was brought to market by an ingenious tender fruit grower from Niagara, and continues to enjoy tremendous success. In fact, almost half of the peaches grown in Ontario in 2010 were packed in these containers.
Pillitteri Estates Winery - Niagara-on-the-Lake
Three new grape varieties will be available for pressing into Ontario wines in the near future, thanks to the determination and combined efforts of local growers, vintners, and educational and research facilities. Pillitteri Estates was the driving force behind getting the varieties through all the trials and errors of research, government certification procedures, and commercialization. The process for adapting the vines to Ontario conditions was sped up by five years by growing them in a greenhouse and continuously grafting shoots as they developed.
Pioneer Flower Farms Limited - St. Catharines
Any gardener can tell you that planting bulbs is very time consuming and sometimes back-breaking. Imagine having to plant 2.5 million bulbs in pots every week for four months! The owners of Pioneer Flower Farms needed to find an efficient potting machine. So, over the course of more than two years they designed and fabricated a less expensive and more efficient machine. Henk Sikking utilized the design of a machine used for planting in crates and modified it to work with pots. Now, sixteen employees can plant 10,000 pots per hour, whereas previously ten people could only plant 2,500 pots per hour. This represents a 150 per cent increase in bulb planting per hour. Employees can also keep up more comfortably with the speed of the new machine.
Prins Grow Inc. - Jordan Station
Jan and Fabiola Prins grew up in the famous Westland greenhouse district of the Netherlands, so they know a thing or two about growing flowers. They're the first in Ontario to grow amaryllis - familiar to many as a potted plant that adorns Canadian homes over the winter holidays - as a cut flower. The Prins adopted a Dutch hydroponic system and modified it to work with Ontario's climate and growing conditions. They find the system is easier to work with and helps keep nematodes under control. Since introducing the innovation to their greenhouse in Jordan, the Prins are losing fewer bulbs to disease and seeing an increase in flower size and quality. It has resulted in higher production that keeps four full time and several seasonal employees busy. And it means more Canadians can enjoy the dramatic beauty of the amaryllis flower in the dull of winter.
Southbrook Vineyards - Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wine pomace is what you call spent grape skins and seeds left over after crushing. In the past, vineyards paid waste companies to dispose of the pomace, but Southbrook Vineyards has found a novel use for it. Recognizing that dried and crushed red grape skins contain very high levels of antioxidants; they collect pomace from Ontario's organic vineyards and process it to produce a functional food product called "Bioflavia." Health Canada has approved it for use as a naturopathic product and it's now one of the highest antioxidant powders available on the market. Bioflavia powder can be added to drinks, sauces and baking - and has been featured on the Canadian television show, Dragon's Den. This pomace-based product packs a nutritional punch.
Victory Organic Inc. - St. Catharines
The Bob Wash is an affordable, small-scale system for ensuring salad greens and root vegetables are washed and packaged safely. The system contains a wash basin that agitates the vegetables and moves them along a conveyor belt into a drying machine. It is able to handle a variety of vegetables, costs a fraction of industrial scale washing systems, and can be set up right on the farm. With the Bob Wash, the product contains fewer insects and debris and has a longer shelf-life, which has increased the bottom line.
Wine Council of Ontario - Vineland
A number of the wineries that belong to the Wine Council of Ontario have signed up for a program that promotes sustainable growing practices. The idea is to produce wines that better reflect the true character of the soil, known as 'terroir.' The program includes using innovative methods like gravity-fed operations, biodynamic farming and organic certification. The organization has developed best-practice guidelines that address topics such as viticulture, waste water management on the farm, and efficient energy use. The businesses that have adopted the program are convinced that they can sell more product, attract better employees and protect the natural environment.
Vineland Research and Innovation Centre & The Stop Community Food Centre - Toronto
The Greater Toronto Area's culturally diverse communities expose us to great recipes from around the world. But making favourite homeland dishes can be a challenge when the produce needed is not locally grown or easily found. This project is helping Ontario farmers meet that demand. The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and The Stop Community Food Centre are working together to conduct farmer outreach and field trials on a variety of crops never previously grown in Ontario. There are now 14 urban community growing sites and five rural sites used for feedback, recipe development and taste tests for urban growers. As a result, more Ontario farmers are growing world crops and selling them at farmers' markets across the GTA. This project involves 300 people in rural-urban connections united by one goal: to help deliver fresh, locally grown ethno-cultural crops to urban communities.
For More Information
Mark Cripps, Minister's Office, 416-326-3069