Challenge aimed to improve Canada’s food security

Canada is known as a leading world producer of many staple crops like wheat, lentils, peas, and canola, as well as a global exporter of animal proteins like pork and beef. The same can’t be said for many horticultural crops, except for greenhouse vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, due to the nature of the climate.

Canada relies heavily on imports of fresh fruits and vegetables, and some statistics suggest Canada would run out of fresh produce in just 10 days without these imports. This leaves an integral part of Canada’s national food security vulnerable to potential trade, political, and economic shocks and disruptions.

The Weston Foundation wants to change that with its $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge. It is an effort to encourage innovation in domestic fruit and vegetable production. The first step is focused on berry production, with participants challenged to “… create and deliver a market-ready system to reliably, sustainably, and competitively produce berries out of season and at scale in Canada.”

Launched in February 2022, 15 teams were chosen as recipients of grants of $50,000 each to build their visions and lay out how they would scale up their concepts should they move to the next phase of the challenge. Of those, 11 teams (seven from Ontario), were selected to proceed to the Shepherd Phase, which comes with funding of up to $1 million each to develop small-scale, proof-of-concept solutions.


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