New funding in agriculture innovations to help reduce the spread of COVID-19

Queen’s Park  — 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 to enhance the health and safety of workers and improve the sector’s efficiency and productivity.
 
Today Minister Hardeman 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.
 
“As a co-chair of the Labour and Innovation in Primary Agriculture Working Group, I am heartened the government is making this significant investment,” said Barrett. “It is no secret farmers are some of the best innovators and problem solvers our province has as they are continually adapting to meet challenges and remain competitive. Investments in technologies such as robotics, optical grading and sorting in vegetable production will help address chronic labour shortages in the sector.”
 
“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,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “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 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 for example advanced technologies such as optical grading and sorting system in vegetable processing or automated, robotic vineyard pruning machines. Ontario will also invest in high-impact social projects for agri-food workers as part of this component.
 
The intake announced today 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 agri-food 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,” said Hardeman. “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. 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,” said Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
 
“The Ontario Tender Fruit Growers extends its appreciation for the Agri-tech Innovation Program that will enhance worker safety on our farms,” said Phil Tregunno, Chair, Ontario Tender Fruit Growers. “With the recent completion of an extensive analysis of the sector, we are well positioned to implement labour saving technologies that will help our competitiveness and grow the industry.”
The first intake will run from May 17 to June 21, 2021. Further details about the intake will be available through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website as of May 17, 2021.

For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or toby.barrett@pc.ola.org