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Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence - 2018 Program Guidebook

Table of Contents


The agri-food sector has always been innovative in running their businesses, adapting practices and looking for partners to compete in the global economy.

To help spur this innovative spirit, the Ontario government created the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. This annual program recognizes outstanding agri-food related innovators including producers, processors and organizations.

This awards program is not intended for the research community.

Annual program awards include:

  • 45 provincial award recipients with a cash prize of $5,000 each
  • three Leaders in Innovation awards of $25,000 each
  • the Minister's Award of $50,000
  • the Premier's Award of $75,000

Award recipients will also receive use of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence wordmark to support their marketing efforts.

The recipients of the 2018 awards will be recognized at events across Ontario in 2018.

Deadline: May 25, 2018 is the due date for completed applications. Electronic applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. and hard copy applications must be postmarked by the deadline date to be accepted.


The objectives of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence Program are to:

  • recognize and encourage innovators in the agri-food sector
  • foster innovation in the agri-food sector that has an effect at the farm level
  • raise awareness about the importance of agri-food innovation and its impact on the Ontario economy

Eligibility criteria

You are eligible to apply under the program if you are:

a) Primary Producer/Farmer

  • must be a resident of Ontario
  • must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada

Any one of the following four options will be acceptable for enrollment and application for the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:

  1. Provide a valid 2017 Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN)
  2. Provide a copy of your 2017 Gross Farm Income Exemption Certificate letter received from the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program.
  3. Beginning farmers and those who actively farmed in 2017 can provide a copy of the Property Assessment Notice from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) confirming the property is classified as "Farm" (eligible for the Farm Property Class tax rate), or a copy of the municipal tax bill declaring the property as "Farm Taxable (FT)".
  4. If a farm business chooses not to have a FBRN for cultural or religious reasons, they must provide the following:
    1. Religious Reasons - a copy of the Religious Exemption Letter as provided by Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (AFRAAT).
    2. Cultural Reasons - First Nations producers may provide a letter from the Indian Agriculture Program of Ontario (IAPO) verifying the farm business operates in the First Nations Community.

b) Processor

  • must be a Canadian owned company with less than 100 annual full-time salaried and non-salaried employees in total
  • a minimum of 50% of the food ingredients used in the Ontario-based manufacturing facility must be sourced from Ontario growers/producers
  • primary processing facilities must be in Ontario.

c) Agri-Food Organization

  • must be Ontario based with a direct relationship / mandate to the agri-food sector.

Applicants must be in compliance with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation that apply to the operation of the innovation.

You are ineligible to apply for the program if you are:

    • an employee of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
    • an immediate family member of individuals employed with OMAFRA including spouse/partner, parents, brothers, sisters, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents
    • a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and any combination of agri-food business or agri-food related organization in which individuals employed with OMAFRA, are owners of, members of or have a controlling and/or financial interest in.


Only one application per applicant can be submitted in any one year.

Applicants from previous years may re-submit an innovation that was not recognized with an award. These applications are not carried forward.

An award winning innovation cannot be submitted again. Previous award recipients are eligible to submit a new project for consideration.

Applicants must be willing to participate in interviews, site visits, photographs and video recordings at the discretion of the ministry or selection committees.

The ministry has the right to refuse an application where concerns have been identified with respect to compliance with regulatory legislation and requirements, undue influence and/or misleading and inaccurate information.

Note to successful applicants: If your innovation is selected for an award, cheques will be made payable to the organization or person listed as the applicant on your application form.

Innovation areas may include:

Examples of innovation areas include but are not limited to:

    • improved business practices
    • response to consumer demands (e.g. new production and processing methods, product development)
    • response to expanding consumer tastes (e.g. locally-grown and produced world foods) collaborations (strategic alliances, cross-sector partnerships)
    • environmental stewardship
    • energy and bio-economy
    • health and safety
    • food safety and traceability
    • education and marketing of the agriculture and food industry to society

Application process 

Primary producers, processors, and agri-food organizations interested in participating must complete and submit an application either electronically or in hard copy by 11:59 p.m. on May 25, 2018 . The application can be downloaded from:

Please refer to the last page of the application form for options to submit your completed application.

Please ensure that your application includes complete answers to all questions in the application form.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to include five photos supporting the innovation in electronic format, if available. Print copies will, however, be accepted. Letters of support are encouraged.

Selection process

The following process will be used to select the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence award recipients:

    • Applications will be received at OMAFRA
    • An acknowledgement letter will be sent to each applicant
    • Applications will be reviewed for eligibility and prepared for consideration by two independent review panels by OMAFRA's Program Analyst
    • The first level review panel will evaluate all applications and select award recipients
    • A second level review panel will assess the selected award applications and make recommendations on the top applications to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Premier's offices
    • The Minister and Premier will review recommended applications and select the Premier's, Minister's and Leaders in Innovation (3) award recipients

Assessment criteria

The following criteria will be used to assess applications:

  • Impact or Benefit - Refers to the economic and/or social benefit to Ontario's agri-food sector resulting from the innovation.
  • Uniqueness and Originality - Refers to historical information of where the innovation originated and the uniqueness of design or style utilized to produce the innovation.
  • Development - Refers to the extent to which the idea or concept has been thought through to completion. Consideration may be given to the stage of development i.e. emerging through to mature.
  • Operational Benefits - The innovation must have been developed or be in development and currently be in use or have a future use in the agri-food sector.
  • Adoption and/or Commercialization - Refers to the degree of success (or potential for success) of adoption by other agri-food businesses or the commercialization and marketing of the innovation.
  • Broader Use - The innovation must have potential for use on a broader basis and be able to demonstrate the potential for having a positive effect on the agricultural industry.
  • Innovate. Grow. Prosper.

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 10 August 2009
Last Reviewed: 23 March 2018