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Erie Agri-Food Innovations Initiative
As our agricultural economy changes, there is a growing need to connect the dots between growers, researchers, downstream value chain partners and the marketplace. This is particularly true in south central Ontario, which has been hit hard by price pressures for its traditional crops and a reduction in tobacco production.
To address this need, the OFVGA launched the Erie Agri-Food Innovations Initiative, a regional effort to transform the future of agriculture in the five county region of Ontario known as the South Central Ontario Region (SCOR), composed of the counties of Norfolk, Middlesex, Elgin, Oxford and Brant. The program is supported by funding from Agricultural Adaptation Council, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and the municipalities of Norfolk and Oxford.
In early 2009, OFVGA hired Dr. John Kelly to head up innovation and commercialization activities, aggressively seek out opportunities for agriculture in this region and match them with grower capacity and, where necessary, assist in attracting investment financing.
Dr. Kelly is based in Simcoe and works with the OFVGA and its SCOR partners to seek out incoming leads for innovation in horticulture, assist with commercialization efforts and build networks with supply chain partners in processing, fresh food, food service distribution, retail and bioeconomy applications beyond food.
The first year of the program focused on the following accomplishments:
- forming two new organizations, Ontario South Coast Wineries and Growers Association and Ontario Lavender Association and successful application for funding
- launching the Naturally Norfolk IQF facility in Delhi, and successful application for just under $1 million in provincial government funding to help establish this state-of-the-art food processing facility that will allow local producers and contract buyers to process locally-grown fruits, vegetables and ginseng in frozen and freeze-dried formats.
- working with University of Guelph researchers, the Society of Ontario Nut Growers, Ferrero Canada and OMAFRA to develop a long term plan for hazelnut production in Ontario.
- organizing the Research to Receptor (R2R) Series, which included presentations to over 300 people across the province. The focus for the series was Biomass and Green Energy; sessions were hosted in fall in Ridgetown, Burlington, Guelph and Kingston. R2R involves the Golden Horseshoe BioSciences Network, the Eastern Lake Ontario Regional Innovation Network (ELORIN), Southwestern Ontario BioProducts Innovation Network (SOBIN), Guelph Partnership for Innovation (GPI) and Erie Innovation and Commercialization.
- meeting with different growers and grower groups, as well as industry stakeholders and downstream value chain partners.
- completing a multi-year strategic plan for the Erie Innovations Initiative
For more information on the Erie Innovations program: John Kelly, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-763-6160, ext 117.