Ontario Invests in Agri-Food Innovation

Ontario Invests in Agri-Food Innovation

Investments in research and new technologies will modernize and strengthen the food supply chain

March 03, 2022

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

TEESWATER –The Government of Ontario is investing up to $22 million through the Agri-Tech Innovation Program to fund more than 170 projects that help the agri-food sector implement new and unique ways to set businesses up for future growth and success while strengthening the food supply chain, creating safer workplaces and making operations more resilient to future disruptions.

“Adapting innovation and technology is key to the success of our agri-food sector,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “This is why we’re investing in innovations that will build a stronger, more resilient sector for years to come. From research to farm production, to food processing, adopting new technologies will help strengthen our food supply chain, create new market opportunities and strengthens the economy.”

This investment will build a stronger Ontario through the adoption of new advanced agriculture and food processing technology that improves the productivity of farmers and agri-food processing businesses, address the labour shortage, and support the long-term sustainability and growth of the sector.

Examples of new technology being implemented include:

  • A self-driving tractor which includes data collection, will decrease use of chemical sprays, contact between farm workers and deter from traditional methods of bird damage preventions.
  • An automated colour sorter machine for the grading and sorting of soybeans which eliminates manual processing, labour challenges and reliance on global suppliers.
  • An automated turkey packaging processor and further processing lines which will reduce employee risk of exposure to COVID-19, workplace related injuries and address shortages in meat processing sector.

This funding is in addition to a $2.4 million investment by the governments of Canada and Ontario through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) to support future innovations in more than 20 projects that will turn innovative ideas into marketable products and technologies.

Examples of projects under this stream of funding include:

  • Developing technology to create a non-plastic material for use in horticulture and food packaging that also helps prevent soil erosion.
  • Developing technology and equipment for apple growers to add efficiency to regular farm activities.
  • Investigating the feasibility of alternative energy sources for field crop and livestock producers in Ontario.

“Our Government believes that innovation is essential to strengthen the competitiveness of the agricultural sector in a sustainable way while ensuring the safety of workers,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. This funding will help producers and processors adopt the technologies they need to drive growth and continue to produce healthy, high-quality food.”

As part of the Partnership, the Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative worked with Bioenterprise Corporation, a national non-profit business accelerator to engage Ontario-based companies in funding opportunities that will bring new and innovative products to market, helping Ontario’s food supply chain and agricultural practices become more efficient and sustainable. These projects benefit Ontarians by continuing to provide safe and healthy food, enhancing the stewardship of our lands, and increasing trade opportunities for Ontario grown and made food.

Quick Facts

  • The Agri-Tech Innovation Program is part of Ontario’s Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Initiative announced in Ontario’s fall 2020 budget, and complements the province’s Prevention, Control and Outbreak Support Strategy for COVID-19 in Ontario’s Farm Workers.
  • OAFRI was launched in 2019 and to date, the governments have invested $6.6 million into more than 50 projects that focus on food safety, trade, rural development, market and growth opportunities, increasing productivity through automation and bio-based production systems.
  • The Partnership is a five-year, $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector, ensuring continued innovation, growth and prosperity. This commitment includes $2 billion for programs that are cost-shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments and are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.
  • Since June 2018, both the federal and provincial governments have committed over $110 million in cost-share support to more than 5,500 projects through the Partnership to help eligible Ontario farmers, processors, businesses, and sector organizations innovate and grow.


“The OAFRI Commercialization Stream is a significant statement from Ontario’s government that agriculture is an economic priority for Canada’s global leadership. By focusing on market validation and product development, we are targeting the wealth of untapped technologies coming out of Ontario’s innovation value chain. These projects are the next heavy hitters for Ontario’s job creation and economic growth.”

– Dave Smardon
President of Bioenterprise Canada

“The fruit and vegetable sector appreciates the commitment of this government to invest in the sector as we look to the future of food production. While a strong and dependable workforce will always be a feature of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable production, investments into improving labour productivity through on-farm innovations is essential to give growers the tools needed to strengthen domestic production and meet domestic and export market opportunities.”

– Charles Stevens
Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association

“As the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable sector continues to evolve by utilizing novel innovative, technologic and automation advancements, the supports offered through the Agri-Tech Innovation Program offered through OMAFRA continues to enable members of OGVG to champion sustainable and efficient farming practices. Through the adoption of new technologies, we are able to provide Ontarians more than nutritious and affordable food – an opportunity to assist in a post-pandemic economic rebound.”

– George Gilvesy
Chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers