Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative: Driving Innovation in the Agricultural Sector

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The Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative (OAFRI) is a program that provides funding for research and innovation projects in the agri-food sector in Ontario, which is a significant component of the Grow Ontario Strategy. OAFRI aims to create a funding process that aligns with the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigenization. The initiative’s objectives are to finance research and innovation activities in response to the agri-food sector’s needs, enhance the sector’s resilience, foster sustainable growth, advance knowledge and technology to address industry challenges, and expand market opportunities both locally and globally. The program is a collaborative effort between the Canadian and Ontario governments under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), a 5-year federal-provincial-
territorial initiative.
OAFRI offers four funding streams that support various activities within the innovation spectrum. All proposals must be in line with the research priorities defined by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). These streams are categorized based on technology readiness levels (TRL). It’s important to note that the ministry is open to funding non- technological solutions if they align with identified priorities. The TRL is used as a reference when proposing any solution and to determine the appropriate initiative stream. The four
streams are:
Applied Research : These projects employ scientific investigation, including laboratory work and experiments, to find solutions to existing problems. In terms of TRL, these projects are in the research and development stage, focusing on generating new knowledge and experimental proof-of-concept in a laboratory or simulated environment (early stage TRL up to level 5).
Pilot and Demonstration : These projects come after laboratory work or theoretical applied research on proof-of-concept has been completed. The aim of this stream is to fund projects that concentrate on developing a model or prototype of new technology (complete TRL 6)The pilot project serves as a bridge between applied research and full-scale commercial application, allowing researchers to assess the applicability of their findings in the real world (targeting TRL 6 for prototype development).
Commercialization : This stream is dedicated to scaling innovative technologies, products, and services for use in the real world or commercial setting. It ensures that technologies and best practices are suitable for commercial use and ready for widespread adoption. This may involve market validation, product development, and optimization of a minimum viable product to meet customer needs (advancing technologies through TRL 7-9).
Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT): The KTT stream focuses on activities designed to translate research knowledge into practical use. This includes activities like synthesis, exchange, engagement, dissemination, dialogue, collaboration, and brokering connections between researchers and research users.
In addition to these OAFRI funding streams, a new initiative called the Grow Ontario Accelerator Hub will provide business support to bring more solutions and technologies to the market. This includes mentoring and advisory services for agri-food business acceleration, growth planning, and investment readiness. The hub will also support businesses throughout the agri-food supply chain in adopting innovation.
The intake for applications for these funding streams will open on November 2, 2023, with additional details available at that time. The Commercialization stream will be delivered through Bioenterprise, and further information will be provided on their website (Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative | ontario.ca).