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Ontario invests $25.5 million for adoption of ag tech


April 27, 2021
By Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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The Ontario government is launching a modernized cost-share intake as part of a $25.5 million program to increase the adoption of technological innovations within the agri-food sector. The aim is to enhance the health and safety of workers and improve the sector’s efficiency and productivity.

On April 21, Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, 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.

“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,” Hardeman said in a statement. “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.”

This intake will support the 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 advanced technologies such as optical grading and sorting system in vegetable processing or automated, robotic vineyard pruning robots. Ontario will also invest in high-impact social projects for agri-food workers as part of this component.

This intake is the second stage of the Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program announced in Ontario’s fall 2020 budget. Under a separate stage of this broader program – the Sector Innovation Road Mapping program – up to $1.4 million was provided to agri-food organizations to identify the best path forward for businesses looking to implement innovative technical solutions and develop best practices for adoption of such technologies.

“This is an investment in the health and safety of our workers for today and in our sector for tomorrow,” Hardeman said. “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.”

“Technology and modern equipment make today’s farms more efficient and safer – both for people and the environment,” said Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “Ontario farmers are excited at the prospect of working with the provincial government to further push innovation on the farm. 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.”

The first intake will run from May 17 to June 21. Further details about the intake will be available through the OMAFRA website as of May 17.