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Recognizing Agri-Food Innovation

Jan 28, 2015

The Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence was established in 2007, to recognize innovations in the production, processing, and distribution of Agri-Food, that strengthen the province’s important Agricultural Sector. Since then, a total of 375 awards have been handed out. This year, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture & Food announced 50 Awards for Innovation Excellence – including 7 given to recipients in Bruce, Grey and Simcoe Counties.

On November 14, Barrie MPP Ann Hoggarth presented the awards at a special ceremony held at the South Innisfil Community Centre in Lefroy.

Winners were Summitview Farm and T&K Ferri Orchards in Clarksburg; Hoity Toity Cellars Inc. in Mildmay, Dornoch Hops Ltd. in Durham; Peace Naturals Project Inc. in Stayner; Barrie Hill Farms in Barrie; and Bradford West Gwillimbury’s Carron Farms Ltd.

The innovations are wide-ranging.

Carron Farms, which grows heirloom carrots that come in red, purple, black, white, yellow and orange, found a way to adapt existing computerized equipment from Europe, to ensure that each bag contains not only the right weight, but the proper mix of colours.
Farm owner Jason Verkaik accepted the award, noting, “The food that farmers in Ontario grow is good and safe and nutritious… It’s great that farms and farming communities do get recognized for the work they put into growing our food.”

Hoity Toity Cellars Inc. in Mildmay developed an innovative new product in 2013, after a long winter and cool growing season resulted in “45% of their grapes failing to meet wine production standards.” In looking for an alternative use, owners Gary and Diane Fischer came up with a unique low-alcohol grape cider, made from frozen grape juice and using traditional wine-making equipment.
And Peace Naturals Project Inc. of Stayner reflects a new sector of the Agri-Food industry: medical marijuana production. The company was praised for the consistency of its product, and its operating procedures, security guidelines and safe production practices that have become industry standards. Peace Naturals was also praised for providing employment – growing from 20 employees, to 43 in a short space of time. “We’ll be upwards of 60,” said partner Mark Gobuty, accepting the award, and praising the Mayor of Stayner for “recognizing us as high-value agriculture.”

Each winner received an award, and $5,000.

“In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, innovation is the key to success,” said emcee Kevin Laidley, Regional Manager at OMAF. “Innovation invigorates our communities. It keeps our agri-food industry running strong.”

In addition to the Innovation awards, OMAF will also announce the top Premier’s Award, MInister’s Award,and 3 Leaders in Innovation Awards, at a later date.

The Agri-Food sector contributes over $34 Billion to the provincial economy, and employs more than 760,000 Ontarians.

Published on: Bradford Times
By: Miriam King, QMI Agency

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