Agri-business and green tech, two high-profile industries that are swept up in a rapid cycle of change and innovation, but is there a way that they can help each other? The answer is yes, and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) is giving $2 million to a Guelph company to further efforts to make businesses both economically and environmentally sustainable.
The announcement was made outside the offices of Bioenterprise on Research Land here in Guelph on Friday morning.
Bioenterprise will administer the program called “FoodShift”, which is a green initiative that will help southern Ontario agri-business and food processers adopt net-zero technologies. Basically, the program will connect the producers and creators of clean technologies with agri-businesses and food processors that might benefit from those new technologies.
“We have portions of the industry that haven’t moved forward with technology, so this is an opportunity to kind of leapfrog and get to that new technology,” said Dave Smardon, President & CEO, Bioenterprise. “What does innovation do? It reduces your costs, it increases your productivity and it builds efficiencies. Those three items are all big improvements whether you’re a farmer or a food processor.”
Bioenterprise Canada is a not-for-profit based in Guelph and is the only national accelerator in Canada that is dedicated to building and growing innovative companies focused on agricultural technology. It makes them ideally suited for this program, which will see small and medium-sized enterprises receive up to $50,000 to support the cost of adopting new green technologies, which will either future-proof the business, or reduce its carbon footprint, or both. The funds awarded will then be matched by the companies themselves.
According to FedDev Ontario, the program will support 60 businesses and create or maintain over 200 jobs. Applications will be accepted starting July 27 at the Bioenterprise website.
So what kind of progress does the “FoodShift” funding buy?
“So you have a food processing company located in southern Ontario, they may be using an awful lot of water, for example, and then there’s a technology company over here that has an opportunity to develop a technology that recycles water, or that reduces the amount of water the food processor is going to use,” Smardon explained.
“What we do at Bioenterprise is we know the company that has the technology, and we know the company that needs the technology, so we introduce them together, we form a project, and then we put the funding program together,” he added. “The end result is that the technology goes over here, gets deployed in the food processing company, and it is now part of the food processing companies natural processing, thereby moving forward but using less water.”
Smardon said that it’s a pretty big issue in business these days matching the ones with a problem and the ones that might have a solution, especially since a lot of innovation is coming out of small businesses. For businesses needing innovation, sometimes they don’t have the capital or the capacity to do the research and development they might need to solve issues.
“Our job is to facilitate, we know who these companies are, so we do the matchmaking roll,” Smardon added. “We’re doing two things: We’re solving the the connectivity problem, and we’re also solving part of the funding issue. We get to say, ‘Look, we have funding here to put towards the evolution of your business into a more innovative and, perhaps, a more competitive business in the future.'”
Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield wasn’t on hand for the announcement after testing positive for COVID-19, but he endorsed the funding announcement in a statement.
“This investment in Bioenterprise supports Canada’s food ecosystem through innovation and will foster economic growth that will strengthen our local economy. Today’s announcement will support 60 companies and 200 jobs right here in Guelph and across southern Ontario,” he said.