Homegrown Innovation Challenge

Future-proofing food production in Canada

The deadline for Shepherd Phase applications was in January 2023. It is no longer possible to enter the Homegrown Innovation Challenge.

What is the Homegrown Innovation Challenge?

The $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge, delivered over six years, will identify teams and support the development of tools and technologies that enable Canadian farmers and producers to sustainably and competitively grow berries out of season.

Catalyzing change through the Homegrown Innovation Challenge


In a climate-changing world, Canada’s high dependence on imported fresh fruits and vegetables make it vulnerable to food systems disruption. By solving the interconnected challenges that currently prevent out-of-season production at scale, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge will catalyze a range of solutions relevant to a broad array of fruit and vegetable crops in Canada and around the world.

The Challenge is funded and delivered by the Weston Family Foundation, which has had a longstanding interest in supporting initiatives that bolster healthy aging and healthy ecosystems as a means to improve the well-being of Canadians. The initiative launched in February 2022 and an innovation team that progresses through all challenge phases and ultimately claims the final awards would receive up to $8 million in funding to develop and scale their innovation. 

Grants made under this Weston Family Foundation program will be made to qualified donees only in compliance with the rules governing registered charities under Canada’s Income Tax Act.

If you have any questions, get in touch at challenge@westonfoundation.ca

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The Homegrown Innovation Challenge asks innovators to “create and deliver a market-ready system to reliably, sustainably and competitively produce berries out of season and at scale in Canada.”

What do we mean by “out of season”?

For the Homegrown Innovation Challenge, “out of season” means a system allowing for:

  • An extended berry harvest season: a system that substantially extends berry harvest by allowing harvest earlier or later than is currently possible;
  • Harvest at any chosen time of year: a system that allows for berry harvest at any chosen time of year;
  • Harvest in a new location: a system that is capable of harvesting a given species of berry at a location in Canada in which the berry is not currently able to be grown;
  • Harvest in multiple seasons: a system that can produce multiple harvests in one year (for a species that had only one harvest per season); and/or
  • Harvest all year round: a system that allows for continual all-year berry harvest.

Challenge timeline
(click and drag)

Feb 8, 2022

Launch of the Challenge

By solving the interconnected challenges that come with growing berries out of season, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge serves to catalyze a range of solutions relevant to a broad array of crops in Canada – and around the world.

May 3, 2022

Applications to the Spark Phase close

Applications to the Spark Phase were due by 12pm ET on May 3, 2022.  Please note that participation in the Spark Phase is not a prerequisite to apply to the Shepherd Phase of the Challenge.

May - July 2022

Assessment 1

The independent judging panel selected 15 innovation teams to receive Spark Awards.

Jun - Dec 2022

Spark Phase

Spark Awards of up to $50,000 are used by innovators to support development of their concept, build-out of their team and preparation of their full proposal (including technical plan) for the Shepherd Phase.

Jan 5, 2023

Applications to the Shepherd Phase close

The deadline for applications to the Shepherd Phase of the Challenge was 12 pm ET on January 5, 2023. Only Shepherd Phase grantees will be considered for future phases of the Homegrown Innovation Challenge.

Jan - Mar 2023

Assessment 2

The independent judging panel selects 10 innovation teams for the Shepherd Phase.

Apr 2023 - Sept 2024

Shepherd Phase

The 10 innovation teams selected are awarded up to $1 million each across 18 months to develop and demonstrate a small-scale proof of concept of their system, generating evidence and learning to be assessed for progression to the Scaling Phase.

Oct - Dec 2024

Assessment 3

The independent judging panel selects 4 innovation teams for the Scaling Phase.

Jan 2025 - Dec 2027

Scaling Phase

Each of the 4 innovation teams selected from the Shepherd Phase is awarded up to $5 million across 3 years to build and demonstrate its system at farm scale, providing the judging panel with evidence that it has produced berries out of season and otherwise achieved the objective set out in the Challenge statement.


Assessment 4

The independent judging panel selects Challenge winners.


Winners announced

1-2 innovation teams selected from the Scaling Phase are announced as Challenge winners. One million dollars will be awarded to the overall winner and $1 million will be awarded to the technology breakthrough winner. (Both awards could be won by the same team.)