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Ontario announces $22M cost-share program to adopt technology in agricultural sector


April 22, 2021
By Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (edited)

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Ontario is launching a modernized cost-share intake to increase the adoption of technological innovations within the agri-food sector.

Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman announced the Agri-tech Innovation Program— a $22 million cost-share program that will help farming operations and processor businesses adopt innovative and new technologies. The goal is to enhance the health and safety of workers and improve the sector’s efficiency and productivity.

“This large investment is a significant step forward by our government in using innovative technology to guard against the spread of COVID-19 in agri-food workplaces and protect worker health and safety,” said Hardeman. “Through the adoption of advanced agriculture technology, we’re helping the sector find new and unique ways to address pandemic challenges while at the same time setting agri-food businesses up for future growth and success in modern agriculture.”

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This intake will support implementation of sector-specific, unique and innovative technologies in the workplace that enhance protection of workers against COVID-19, lead to increased business efficiencies and productivity, and help build the sector’s resilience. Subject to program eligibility criteria, applications for funding could include technologies such as optical grading and sorting systems or automated, robotic pruning robots. Ontario will also invest in high-impact social projects for agri-food workers as part of this component.

The intake announced yesterday is the second stage of the $25.5 million Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. Under the first stage of this broader program, the Sector Innovation Road Mapping program, the province provided up to $1.4 million to agri-food organizations, including Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and Berry Growers of Ontario, to identify the best paths forward for agri-food businesses looking to implement innovative technical solutions and develop best practices for adoption of such technologies in their respective agricultural sectors.

“This is an investment in the health and safety of our workers for today and in our sector for tomorrow,” said Hardeman. “Our government strongly encourages the adoption of technological innovations that protect workers in both large and small agri-food businesses, where the risks are highest and the impact of technology on modernizing these businesses will be significant.”

“This program will not only protect farmers and farm workers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will enable investments in new processes and state of the art equipment,” said Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

The Agri-tech Innovation Program will provide substantial incentives in two separate streams:

  • The Early Adopters stream will foster adoption of advanced technology to modernize businesses that are not yet widely adopted within the sector (e.g., production or automation technology); the province will cover 35 per cent of the project cost to a maximum of $100,000. This stream is designed for significant projects with a minimum value of $150,000.
  • Phase three of the program will focus on truly innovative projects, where the innovation is new to Ontario, North America or the specific sector (e.g., prototyping/customization of an autonomous farm harvesting equipment). The projects will involve piloting or demonstrating the technology and will need to be a collaboration between at least two businesses/organizations.

The first intake for the Early Adopters Stream will run from May 17 to June 21. Program information and application forms will be available as of May 17.  The intake for the Innovators Stream will open following the closing of the Early Adopters Stream.