- The Weston Family Foundation’s Homegrown Innovation Challenge has entered its second phase, awarding $1 million each to 11 Canadian teams for extending the berry growing season.
- The Challenge aims to drive advances in sustainable and cost-competitive growing solutions using advanced science and technology.
- Projects include using aeroponics, pesticide-free systems, and thermal-management technology for berry production.
- Teams comprise farmers, engineers, agronomists, AI specialists, and environmental scientists.
- The next phase of the Challenge will commence in 2025, with up to $5 million awarded to each of the top four teams to scale their solutions.
Canada is pioneering in sustainable agriculture through a $33 million competition called the Homegrown Innovation Challenge. Launched in 2022 by the Weston Family Foundation, the Challenge has entered its second phase. Eleven Canadian teams have been awarded $1 million each to develop their innovative ideas for extending the growing season of berries.
Driving Advances in Agriculture
The Challenge aims to drive significant advances in tangible growing solutions that are both sustainable and cost-competitive for the future of Canadian farming. The projects proposed by the 11 teams aim to tackle extreme weather events, high energy requirements, limited yields, and short growing seasons. Aeroponics, pesticide-free systems, and thermal-management technology are being explored to revolutionize berry production in Canada and globally.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
The teams participating in the Challenge represent diverse expertise, including farmers, producers, engineers, agronomists, horticulturalists, AI specialists, and environmental scientists. The Foundation received so many promising submissions that they fund eleven projects instead of the initially planned ten.
Spotlight on Some Projects
- AgriTech North: Collaborating with Collège Boréal and the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) to create a scalable fresh-food production system for northern growers.
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Developing an AI-driven robot system to reduce the cost and use of pesticides in the production of strawberries and blackberries.
- Ontario Tech University: Creating an energy-efficient, controlled environment agriculture facility to outperform traditional greenhouses in the production of strawberries.
The Road Ahead
The next round of the Challenge, known as the Scaling Phase, will commence in 2025. Up to $5 million will be awarded to each of the top four teams over three years to scale and demonstrate a market-ready solution.
In summary, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge represents a significant step towards the future of Canadian farming, bringing together a multidisciplinary approach to tackle the complex challenges in agriculture. With the fusion of technology and expertise, the Challenge aims to unlock new possibilities in sustainable and out-of-season berry production.