By Connor Lynch
TORONTO — Farms took home anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000 in December, when the province gave out its annual agri-food innovation awards.
In total, 55 awards were given out across Ontario and most awards went to operations in Western Ontario.
Taking home the top prize, the Premier’s award of $75,000, was Hamilton Region’s Greenbelt Microgreens. Ian Adamson’s indoor operation produces organic lettuce, wheatgrass, pea shoots, arugula, and sunflower sprouts that he says are 80 times more efficient than open field production.
The $50,000 Minister’s award went to SunPillar Inc. in Peel Region. The company employs a variety of tech professionals to help innovative farmers bring their ideas to reality in a lab environment. Its latest development, Hive Health, is a system that lets commercial beekeepers monitor numerous aspects of their hives’ health, including hive weight, the number of bees entering or leaving the hive, temperature and humidity.
Moyer’s Apple Products in Niagara region took home $25,000 for their innovations in crop sanitization. The company, owned by Paul Moyer, kills 99 per cent of pathogens in its products with a combination of ultraviolet light, vapourized hydrogen peroxide, and high concentrations of ozone gas.
Andrew Campbell, the Fresh Air Farmer of Middlesex County, took home $25,000 for his Dinner Starts Here audiovisual series. He visited farms in Ontario, took footage and recordings with a microphone and drone, and used them for “agvocacy” through his substantial social media following, including his 21,200 followers on Twitter.
Twelve Western Ontario and Southern Ontario farms took home regional awards of $5,000 each. They are:
Clear Creek Farms Inc., in Chatham-Kent: Beef farmer Chris Knight doubled his production per acre, lowered his tractor use, and improved the quality of his animals with intense rotational grazing.
Greenbelt Microgreens: It not only won the top prize but took home a regional award as well.
Heeman Strawberry Farm, in Middlesex County: Run by Tom and Will Heeman, the farm used spools of row cover attached to ATVs to quickly and efficiently cover their strawberries, letting them increase their acreage by six times.
Niagara Try Dry, in Niagara Region: Barry Kemp and Cathy Langford’s orchard, where they grow cherries, apricots, apples, grapes, peaches, and plenty of other produce, is the province’s only small-scale dehydrated fruit processor.
Par-Chier Farms Ltd., in Huron County: The 1,000-head dairy goat farm, run by Jim and Sylvia Parish, and David and Kirsten Passchier, incorporated a rotary parlour for efficient milking and put scanners on their goats to track data on them, such as when they need to be bred or are due for a hoof-trimming.
Shorequip Sandy Shores Farm Ltd., in Norfolk County: The asparagus farm wanted to make harvest more efficient and hired an engineering firm that built a one-person harvesting cart to increase efficiency.
Spring Knoll Dairy Inc., in Haldimand County: Before even getting into the industry, now-dairy farmer Stanley Heeg designed a dairy farm that would let only two people milk 50 cows using a robotic milker, LED lights on timers, an automated manure system, and variable-speed fans.
Thatcher Farms Butcher Shop, Bakery & Farm Market, in Wellington County: The beef farm, run by Adam and Dana Thatcher, is a truly all-in-one operation: The farmers breed, raise, slaughter, process, and retail their animals.
Tregunno Fruit Farms Inc., in Niagara Region: Farmers Ryan and Jourdan Tregunno implemented advanced technology, such as robots that sort fruit by sight and that pack crops, to increase production and for quality control.
Twin Creeks Greenhouse, in Lambton County: The greenhouse built a pipeline to pump methane in from a nearby landfill, providing a source of both CO2 and heat for the plants.
Wooley’s Lamb, in Norfolk County: Carrie Wooley and Brett Schuyler let their sheep graze amongst cherry trees, providing shelter and grazing space for the animals, saving them on grass-cutting costs, and improving the health of their soil.
Wylie Mycologicals Ltd., in Grey County: Bill Wylie’s organic operation grows all kinds of specialty mushrooms, from cinnamon caps to elm oysters, on a commercial scale.