Farmers Forum staff
ONTARIO — Ten Ontario companies are sharing $2 million in grant money recently awarded through the Ontario ‘fertilizer challenge.’ The recipients include a new cricket manure vendor, crop-input companies, a robotic farm implement dealer, and a couple of biogas developers.
The province launched the competitive challenge last year to spur the development of new fertilizer options and technology as Ontario farmers grapple with global threats to their fertilizer supply chain and related high fertilizer costs.
A recent survey of Ontario farmers found that half used less fertilizer last season because of increased prices, while 17 % were notified by their supplier of a potential fertilizer shortage.
It’s hoped the recently announced grants will make a dent in the problem, and Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson praised the program at the recent Ottawa Valley Farm Show.
Bioenterprise Canada chose the winners out of 32 entries.
1. International Zeolite Corp. ($144,000) — Based in Toronto, International Zeolite Corp. operates a British Columbia mine that produces zeolite, a volcanic mineral that is a “novel and disruptive technology” to dramatically cut fertilizer usage and costs, according to company president Mark Pearlman. Fertilizer is embedded within the microscopic honeycomb structures of the negatively-charged zeolite mineral and applied to crops. This eliminates fertilizer escaping into the atmosphere and into the water table. The claim is that fertilizer use would drop by up to 90 % and input costs decrease by about half, depending on the crop. This would reduce the need for nitrogen, thereby reducing nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas. The grant will help make the company’s first product batches at a pilot facility in Lincoln, Ontario, and get them into the hands of early adopters.
2. SureSource Commodities ($199,900) — Based in Petrolia, Sure Source Commodities will carry out research trials on cricket excrement, or “frass,” as a planned new fertilizer product line for organic crops. Agronomy Lead Rob Wallbridge says the company will annually market 15,000 tonnes of frass from the new ‘Aspire’ cricket-production plant in London, Ontario.
3. CRF AgriTech LP ($154,000) — A division of Sollio Cooperative Group, CRF AgriTech LP will use the money to accelerate rollout of advanced controlled-release field-crop fertilizers from its St. Thomas plant. The effort will involve training of retailers and growers, and research into polymer coatings for various types of fertilizer that will go into production in May.
4. BioLiNE Corp. ($200,000) — Based in Alvinston, BioLiNE Corp. makes products that feed soil microbes to improve soil health. It will develop a fulvic acid-based biostimulant to improve drought resistance in field crops.
5. CanGrow Crop Solutions ($200,000) — Based in Alvinston, CanGrow Crop Solutions, a maker of liquid fertilizers and biologicals, will bring a new line of microbials to market. Director of Commercial Growth and Strategy Shawn Brenneman says the products are formulated with a unique “team” of microbes and fungi to improve field-crops’ uptake of fertilizer in the soil. The products employ the technology of Texas-based Biodyne USA, and the grant will help defray the cost of registering them in Canada and educating farmers on their use and benefits.
6. ReGenerate Biogas ($116,000) — Based in Toronto, ReGenerate develops biogas projects that brew organic waste into energy and fertilizer, including a headline-making digester at the Toronto Zoo. The company’s Daniel Bida says the grant will allow them to further process the zoo digester’s output of digestate into a retail, specialty fertilizer product, ZooRenew. It’s hoped that premium fertilizer sales will improve the digester’s business performance. The digestate is currently hauled and spread at a nearby farm.
7. ALPINE ($160,000) — aka Nachurs Alpine Solutions — is a liquid fertilizer company with several manufacturing plants in North America, including its home base in New Hamburg. The grant will help conduct research trials for the company’s two new micronutrient products, which will be made in New Hamburg for a planned fall launch. Applied on the soil and foliage of field crops, the new ‘MicroFusion’ line will allow plants to use fertilizer more efficiently and raise crop yields.
8. Escarpment Renewables — Based in Grimsby, Escarpment Renewables makes a liquid digestate fertilizer from commercial and farm organic waste processed in its 1-megawatt methane biodigester.
9. Haggerty AgRobotics — Based in Bothwell, Haggerty AgRobotics sells droid-like robotic field equipment like seeders, weeders and sprayers.
10. Woodrill Farms — With locations in Guelph, Marsville and Cheltenham, Woodrill Farms is a full service crop input supply company — including fertilizer — and a grain elevator business.