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Weston Family Foundation innovation challenge focuses on growing berries out of season

February 9, 2022  By Bakers Journal


Toronto – The Weston Family Foundation has launched a $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge to spark creative solutions and encourage new ideas to boost the sustainable production of fruits and vegetables in Canada.

The Challenge centres around a competition to generate solutions that will enable domestic food producers to grow berries out of season, sustainably, competitively, and at scale. Funding will be awarded in stages over six years to eligible teams developing tools and technologies that solve the interconnected challenges of growing produce out of season in Canada.

“There is a golden opportunity to boost innovation in the food sector by nurturing bold, game-changing solutions for agricultural producers,” says Emma Adamo, chair, Weston Family Foundation. “By catalyzing these solutions for berries, we anticipate the creation of systems relevant to a broad array of fruit and vegetable crops, helping to position Canada as a leader in this sector.”

Like many countries, Canada is heavily reliant on imported fresh fruits and vegetables; we bring in nearly 80 per cent of our fresh produce, predominantly from climate-vulnerable areas. This situation creates the potential for food shortages due to food-systems disruptions such as border closings, droughts, flooding, or future pandemics.

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Thanks to its socio-economic profile and extreme seasons — made even more extreme through the effects of climate change — Canada is an ideal testing ground for innovative agricultural ideas.

Ideas, however, require funding and support to develop into functioning, scalable systems, and that is where the Homegrown Innovation Challenge comes in.

Challenge prizes are a tried-and-tested method for incentivizing innovation, with clear goals, objective criteria, and a laser-like focus on solutions and outcomes. Developed by the Weston Family Foundation and Nesta Challenges, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge calls for entrepreneurs and innovators, food producers and farmers, researchers and scientists to tackle this challenge.

The ultimate winner of the Challenge could be awarded as much as $8 million, with substantial funding also available to eligible teams that progress through different stages as they develop, scale, and ready their innovations for market.

Learn more about the criteria and process for applications at homegrownchallenge.ca.


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