Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence


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Sudbury - December 09, 2013

Showcasing Local Agri-Food Innovators

Ontario's agri-food industry is leading the way with innovative products and ideas that are creating local jobs and bringing more locally grown food to the dinner table.

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Front Row From Left to Right: Seija Deschenes, Debra Garner, Mira Melien, Vali Melien, Serena LeBlanc and Trevor Bryant. Back Row From Left to Right: Ted Williamson, Jeff Godfrey, Bill Garner, Greg Melien, Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch, Joseph LeBlanc and Doug Thompson

Front Row From Left to Right: Seija Deschenes, Debra Garner, Mira Melien, Vali Melien, Serena LeBlanc and Trevor Bryant

Back Row From Left to Right: Ted Williamson, Jeff Godfrey, Bill Garner, Greg Melien, Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA, Joseph LeBlanc and Doug Thompson

2012-13 Award Winners

Boreal Berry Farm & Winery - Warren, District of Sudbury

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Greg Melien, Mira Melien, Vali Melien and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch

Greg Melien, Mira Melien, Vali Melien and Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA

Imagine a berry bush that can survive temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius and produce fruit even earlier than strawberries. Now imagine the product's antioxidant-loaded berries that combine the sweet-tart flavours of blueberries and raspberries. Meet the haskap, also known as the honeyberry or blue honeysuckle. Greg and Mira Melien have devoted 20 acres of their orchard to this deciduous shrub that thrives in northern climates. As well as selling the fresh and frozen berries, the Meliens transform their harvest into haskap juice, wine, jams, jellies, wine gums and syrups. In fact, these biodynamic farmers are such big fans of the berry that they've formed the Ontario Haskap Association to help other farmers across the province to grow and market it.

 

Golden Beef Producer Cooperative - Val Gagné, Districts of Timiskaming and Cochrane

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Jeff Godfrey, Bill Garner, Debra Garner and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch

Jeff Godfrey, Bill Garner, Debra Garner and Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA

Beef producers in Timiskaming now have a competitive edge: knowledge. A new custom-built online traceability system is giving the Golden Beef Producer Cooperative crucial abattoir data. Cooperative members can compare their carcass yield data, helping them determine the optimal slaughter weight to maximize yield and profits for their forage-fed beef. They can also monitor processing costs and use that information to set appropriate retail prices. Consumers benefit as well because the system creates full traceability. Developed in partnership with another northern group of beef producers and an IT specialist, the affordable system is attracting plenty of interest from other small-scale producer groups and agri-food cooperatives.

 

Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association - Manitowaning, District of Manitoulin

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Seija Deschenes, Ted Williamson and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch

Seija Deschenes, Ted Williamson and Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA

When farmers on Manitoulin Island want to protect the waterways that run through their property, they know who to call: the Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association. Since 2001, this non-profit organization has been working with landowners, businesses, schools and government to restore cold-water streams on the island. Over the past 12 years the organization has planted 23,887 trees to reduce erosion, installed more than 3,000 metres of fencing to prevent livestock from contaminating water, decommissioned two dams and set up livestock watering systems. As well as improving wildlife habitat, watershed rehabilitation can double the productivity of a fishery. On an island where fishery-driven tourism brings in millions of dollars a year, the entire community is reaping the rewards.

 

Thompson's Maple Products - Hilton Beach, District of Algoma

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Trevor Bryant, Doug Thompson and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch

Trevor Bryant, Doug Thompson and Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA

When you've got 20,000 trees in your maple sugar bush, monitoring the tap lines is no small task. Doug Thompson was getting a little tired of trudging along each line, looking for damage in the plastic tubing. So he teamed up with a computer programmer to develop a wireless remote monitoring system that reports the status of each line to his computer or smartphone every few minutes. The new "Tap Track" system has increased Thompson's income, boosted production and reduced the number of staff repairing lines from five to two. Because the system targets problems, leaks can be fixed faster. That reduces the risk of bacteria, yeast and moulds getting into the sap, and compromising product quality. For maple producers, Tap Track is one sweet technology.

 

True North Community Co-operative - Thunder Bay, District of Thunder Bay

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Serena LeBlanc, Joseph LeBlanc and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch

Serena LeBlanc, Joseph LeBlanc and Brent Kennedy, OMAFRA

You'll find plenty of co-operatives in Ontario's agri-food industry. Some are producer-owned. Some are consumer-owned. And then there's the True North Community Co-op. This food retailer in Thunder Bay counts consumers, producers and local organizations as members. True North was established in 2008 to support small-scale farmers and build a stronger local economy by selling regionally sourced foods. It puts more money in the pockets of farmers and reduces the number of kilometres that food travels. It also creates closer links between field and table. The model has proved highly successful, attracting more than 700 members and spawning an offshoot in the remote First Nation community of Fort Albany.

 

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