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What grants are available for vertical farming?

You've probably heard of grants, but it's important to understand what a grant is.

A grant is a fund given by a person or organization for a specific purpose linked to public benefit. Grants are usually offered by a public body, a charitable foundation, a specialized grant-making institution, or, in some cases, a business with a corporate social responsibility.

In other words, it is "free money" you can use to start or expand a project that benefits society.

Do you pay back grants in Canada?
Grant money is "free" because instead of paying the donation back monetarily, you pay it back by creating impact (number of jobs created, number of heads of produce grown, etc.)

It's important to note that while a grant is money you don't have to pay back - it doesn't mean there are no strings attached. Sometimes, if the grant is not used for what it was intended for or if you receive more funding than you were eligible for, there are consequences.

Grants can help accelerate innovation in fields like food and agriculture.

Why is grant funding offered?
The world is a big place with some big problems to solve. In Canada, grant funding is often offered through the government (at federal, provincial, and local levels too).

It can be difficult for the government to solve every issue facing Canadians and even know how to solve the problem. So, instead, the government takes taxpayer dollars and gives them to local individuals, organizations, and businesses looking to make a difference. In a way, grants help the government delegate to those people closer to the problem and the expertise needed to find a solution.

However, grant funding doesn't only need to be used to solve problems, it can also be used to accelerate innovation. It is risky to try something new. A grant helps the industry take risks by lowering the costs associated with the innovation.

For example, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge pledged $33 million to big ideas that will extend the growing season of berries in Canada. The grant was awarded to universities with industry partnerships to test out various approaches.

Who offers grants?
There are multiple places that offer grants for a variety of purposes, such as employment grants or student university grants. We will focus on what grants someone in the Growcer network might be interested in.

  • Federal grants

    • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

    • Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)

    • Indigenous Services Canada

  • Provincial/territorial governments

    • Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership

    • Provincial arms of the Ministry of Agriculture (Alberta Agriculture, OMAFRA, etc.)

  • Indigenous organizations

    • New Relationship Trust

  • Industry organizations

    • RDAR (Alberta)

    • Investment Agriculture Fund (B.C.)

    • Bioenterprise (Ontario)

    • Food Matters Manitoba (Manitoba)

  • Foundations

    • Weston Foundation (Homegrown Innovation Challenge)

Grants come in all shapes and sizes. There are agriculture grants for new innovative ideas to grow food and training employment grants to open up opportunities for employment where jobs may be limited.

Grants are also structured in different ways. For example,

  • Grants may require matching funds, meaning they will grant you the money if you agree to fund a percentage of the project yourself. Willing to put part of the money down yourself shows that you are committed to the idea and willing to take on some risk.

  • Grants may limit what the funding can be used for. For example, the funds must be used for "capital costs," which usually include equipment and supplies.

  • Grant entitlements may change depending on whether you're a non-profit or for-profit applicant. For example, for-profit companies may have a higher threshold for matching funds (i.e., your company will need to pay for 40% of the total project costs if you're a for-profit company and only 20% if you're a non-profit).

Example: Government of Alberta's Emerging Opportunities Program
Govt of Alberta – Emerging Opportunities Program
Amount: The maximum grant funding provided by this program is $1,000,000 per fiscal year for a project with a maximum of $2,000,000. Costs are shared at 25% for approved capital expenses and 50% for approved non-capital expenses.

Deadline: Continuous intake, but you must be invited to submit an application.

The Emerging Opportunities Grant Program supports the Government of Alberta's strategic objectives related to the growth and development of Alberta's value-added agriculture sector. The program supports projects that focus on innovation and result in significant company growth and sector impact.

How do I apply for grant funding?
Grant applications can vary widely. Every organization will have a different way they want their grants submitted. Some applications are a fillable Word document/PDF template where you fill in your answers and include an accompanying budget, and others are completed through an online portal.

Normally, grant applications will also ask you for letters of support, Band Council resolutions, business plans, and other supporting documents.

Pay attention to intake rounds (if a grant opens up for applications during specific times), deadlines, and follow-up requirements.

The application process can be long and arduous, which is why it's important to understand eligibility criteria and entitlements early on so you do not waste your time applying for a grant you cannot receive.

For more information:
The Growcer
[email protected]

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