The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence
recognizes innovations that improve existing products, create jobs
and drive economic growth. The following five award winners were
announced and recognized at the annual Premier's Summit on Agri-Food.
They will also be among 50 regional award recipients who will be
recognized for their innovations over the coming weeks.
Ruth Klahsen and Kathleen Wynne, Premier and Minister of Agriculture
In 2008, when rent at Monforte Dairy's existing location skyrocketed,
the artisanal cheesemaker faced the challenge of securing enough
money to build a new facility. So Monforte turned to its biggest
believers - its customers.
It sold shares in denominations of $200, $500 and $1,000, redeemable
in cheese. While many farmers have turned to community-supported
agriculture to finance their operations, this is the first time
the model had been attempted by an Ontario food processor.
Monforte customers came through, purchasing nearly 900 shares totaling
more than $400,000. The money helped pay for one-and-a-halfof land
in Stratford and a brand new, environmentally sustainable cheesemaking
This year, Monforte
is on target to reach $2 million in sales, with the help of cheese
aficionados determined to keep their favourite producer in business.
Minister's Award Winner
The Foreign Affair Winery - Vineland (Niagara Region)
Marisa and Len Crispino, Kathleen Wynne, Premier and Minister of
Agriculture and Food
As a Canadian living in Italy, Len Crispino fell in love with
the appassimento wines that are a specialty of northern Italy,
made by drying the grapes before pressing them.
He and his wife, Marisa, turned that passion into The Foreign
Affair Winery. Despite differences in soil, growing seasons and
grape varieties, after many years of experimenting, they have
successfully applied appassimento techniques to Ontario grown
grapes on their 40-acre Niagara vineyard.
To overcome the challenge of mould, they re-engineered air flow
in the vineyard and production process. Today, The Foreign
Affair Winery produces 14 different wines.
Here's to the fruits of passion and perseverance.
Leaders in Innovation Award Winners
Geissberger Farmhouse Cider Inc. - Hampton (Durham Region)
Gord Geissberger, Garry Geissberger, Kathleen Wynne, Premier
and Minister of Agriculture and Food
When the nights get cooler, the leaves start to turn and apples
weigh down the branches in orchards across the province, the Geissbergers'
mobile cider mill hits the road.
The first of its kind in Ontario, this cider press on wheels
travels to the apples, rather than the other way round. With top-of-the-line
technology and computerized pressing equipment, the customized
trailer can process 500 litres of cider an hour.
And because the Geissbergers
use bag-in-box packaging that keeps the cider fresh for a
full year, growers can press all their apples at the peak of their
flavour, rather than storing some for later processing.
It all adds up to fewer costs for producers and tastier cider
for their customers.
Thompson's Maple Products - Hilton Beach (Algoma District)
Doug Thompson and Kathleen Wynne, Premier and Minister of Agriculture
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 slashed 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 its quality.
For maple producers, Tap Track is one sweet technology.
Y U Ranch - Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy / Tillsonburg (Norfolk County)
Cathy, Paula, Joe and Bryan Gilvesy, Kathleen Wynne, Premier
and Minister of Agriculture and Food
When Y U Ranch delivers its grass-fed beef to hungry customers,
it's making North American history. That's because the customized
delivery van is the first hybrid gas/electric refrigerated minivan
on the continent.
Y U's owners, Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy,
call it the "Farmers' Market Express." Small enough
that anyone with an ordinary class G licence can drive it, the
van is easy to manoeuvre in crowded urban settings. At just eight
litres per hundred kilometres, its fuel efficiency exceeds every
other model on the market. Not only that, the electric-powered
cooler and freezer units can run when the engine is switched off,
eliminating the need to idle.
The Farmers' Market Express puts refrigerated delivery within
affordable reach for small producers.