By Connor Lynch
TORONTO — The Ontario government once again dished out its agri-business innovation awards to farms and food businesses across Ontario.
Fifty agri-businesses were awarded $5,000 last month. The top premier’s award for agri-food innovation excellence for $75,000 was awarded to Hamilton-area Greenbelt Microgreens, The operation cultivates lettuce and exotic greens 80 times more efficiently than open-field production.
The province started giving out the awards in 2006. Here are the 10 Eastern Ontario projects that each scooped up a $5,000 prize:
Abbey Gardens, Haliburton
A not-for-profit started by retired businessman John Patterson that took over a gravel pit nine years ago and turned it into a thriving community agricultural hub. Abbey Gardens features community gardens, a farmers’ market, an on-site brewery, and offers gardening and cooking classes. The site also hosts space for two alternative energy projects, research facilities for two universities, and business space.
Barn Own Malt Inc., Stirling
A small-batch craft malting company run by Devin and Leslie Huffman, the business creates opportunities both for local barley growers to sell their product, and local breweries to source premium, old-fashioned malts for their beers.
Farmersville Community Abattoir, Athens
The not-for-profit slaughterhouse was born out of the closing of Rideau Meats, at Smiths Falls, back in early 2016. The new slaughterhouse has been up and running for over a year after a desperate push by local hog farmer Barbara Schafer to get it going and keep it alive.
Ferme Avicole Laviolette, St. Isidore
The Laviolette family launched extensive upgrades to their chicken facilities, including improved insulation, computerized controls for production and maintenance, and LED lighting to boost egg production, all in one facility. Since then, egg production has climbed and the farm rarely has broken eggs.
Funny Duck Farms, Jasper
The farm, run by Aaron and Samantha Klinck, created an alternative to storing hay for their livestock over the winter. They installed hydroponic fodder units to grow hay year round. Each produces as much feed as 50 acres of hay and only require 30 minutes of tending each day. They also run a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, where consumers can directly buy from the farm.
Kaley’s Acres Farm, Castleton
To harvest kale, normally an onerous task that has to be done by hand, the farm innovated. Retrofitting an outdated tobacco harvester, Adrian and Draupadi Quinn tripled their number of productive acres without having to hire any more employees.
Kula Farm, Cobden
The farmer that wrote the book on sustainable and profitable gardening, Zach Loeks, has pioneered a method of market gardening in the province. The farm increased its income by 40 per cent, doubled their employees, and reduced inputs by 30 per cent.
Old 4th Hop Yard, Williamstown
Hop farmer Ron Brennan needed a better way to track data about his certified organic hop farm. So he created Hop Logger, which tracks in-the-field data on his smartphone, ensuring he always has it at hand and everything is neatly organized.
Potter Settlement Artisan Winery, Tweed
The winery, run by ex-actor Sandor Johnson, has made two major changes: It started growing three new breeds of cold-resistant grapes. They also installed solar and geothermal systems to heat and cool their buildings, use cover crops to help fertilize the vineyard, and use a mechanical weeding tool in lieu of herbicides.
Quinte Immigration Services, Belleville
The immigration service launched a program connecting Syrian refugees, most of whom either owned their own farm in Syria or worked on one, and farmers in the area looking for employees. Of the 150 participating refugees,