Find answers to frequently asked questions

We have collected FAQs about the Homegrown Innovation Challenge below. Please review these and get in touch with us at challenge@westonfoundation.ca if your question is not answered. We will be updating this page regularly so please do check back.

About the Challenge

In a climate-changing world, Canada’s high dependence on imported fresh fruits and vegetables makes it vulnerable to food systems disruption. The $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge, delivered over six years, will identify teams and support the development of tools and technologies that will enable Canadian farmers and producers to sustainably and competitively grow berries out of season. By addressing the interconnected barriers 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.

The Weston Family Foundation invests in innovation and learning to deliver measurable impacts for the well-being of Canadians. Taking a collaborative approach to philanthropy, it funds forward-thinking organizations to advance Canada and create lasting benefits. The Foundation has two focus areas it supports — Healthy Aging and Healthy Ecosystems — and applies a spark, shepherd, scale approach to ensure that the best ideas have the best chance of success. It also supports a number of diverse nation-building projects that contribute to a vibrant and resilient Canada. Since its creation more than 60 years ago, the Foundation has donated more than $500 million to non-profit organizations and research institutions, making it one of the largest private foundations in the country.

Innovation challenges offer a reward to whoever can first or most effectively meet a defined challenge. Through a public competition, innovation challenges aim to tap into and engage the broadest possible community of innovators to solve a specific problem or challenge. Rather than specifying what a solution must look like, innovation challenges set out a clearly defined goal, along with information on how success will be measured, and invite innovators to propose how they think it could be solved. This approach allows for a wide range of solutions to be considered. If you are interested in learning more about innovation challenges, please visit the website of Challenge Works (formerly Nesta Challenges).

The Weston Family Foundation is running the Homegrown Innovation Challenge to drive innovation in food production and build Canada’s capacity to produce the food its population requires. We believe that by building the resilience of the food system, we can help Canada deal with future uncertainty. You can read more about this in the Why now? section of the website.

About the funding

The Homegrown Innovation Challenge will distribute up to $33 million in funding over six years. Overall, there is up to $8 million in funding available to an innovation team seeking to develop and scale their innovation.  You can read more about the funding breakdown available in the How the Challenge Works section of the website.

Funding must be used by lead organizations who are CRA qualified donees only in furtherance of their eligible projects and in ways that will advance solutions that support the reliable, sustainable, competitive and at-scale out-of-season production of berries and (eventually) other crops in Canada, along with any other requirements set out by the Weston Family Foundation or government authorities. Note also that not more than 10% of grant funds can be used for institutional overhead, inasmuch as such overhead is normally collected for grants that are similar in scope and size to those provided through the Challenge.

Yes, funds can sit alongside other funding streams you may have and can be used to match other grants helping fund your solution.

No, the Weston Family Foundation does not require a stake in any related commercial enterprise, nor does it desire rights in any intellectual property that may derive from the Challenge (but please see Section 3 of the Terms and Conditions).

Funds from the Homegrown Innovation Challenge can sit alongside other funding streams you may have, so long as your solution meets the requirements of the Challenge. You can spend as much additional funding as you like in pursuing the goal set out in the Challenge, however, the grant funds provided by the Weston Family Foundation will be transferred solely to the eligible qualified donee in furtherance of their eligible project (as detailed in the grant agreement to be entered into).

Applicant eligibility criteria

Please see the Challenge eligibility criteria and further details about what we are looking for in solutions.

Yes, you can submit an application for funding to our Shepherd Phase without previously receiving a Spark Award, and reviewers will not penalize you in any way for not having held a Spark Award.  That said, you must receive be approved under the Shepherd Phase to advance to later phases of the Challenge.

It is your responsibility to ascertain whether your organization is defined as a qualified donee under Canada’s Income Tax Act. The Canada Revenue Agency lists a number of organization types as qualified donees, such as registered charities (including universities and colleges), municipal or public bodies performing a function of government in Canada, as well as municipalities, among others. If you wish to check whether your organization is a registered charity, you can do this here.

Yes, the Weston Family Foundation will only accept applications from qualified donees, as this term is defined by the Canada Revenue Agency.

All applications must include a lead organization that is a qualified donee, as this term is defined by the Canada Revenue Agency, and which is based in Canada.  Each lead organization must nominate an affiliated principal investigator and said principal investigator must spend at least 50% of their time in Canada during their participation in the Challenge.  Applications from teams are encouraged and, in addition to a lead organization, teams can be comprised of collaborators based anywhere in the world.

Individuals from entities that are not based in Canada are eligible to participate in the Challenge as either co-applicants or collaborators. Co-applicants are individuals who have responsibility for overseeing the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed project, and must be a qualified donee (as considered by the Canada Revenue Agency). Collaborators contribute substantially to the project but do not lead the work, and do not necessarily have to be a qualified donee. However, they cannot directly receive grant funding from the Weston Family Foundation.

At the application stage you must be able to provide detailed plans for how you will implement and scale your ideas. If your idea is selected by the judging panel, you will be required to develop your idea into a proof of concept and later demonstrate that your system has worked at farm scale to produce out-of-season berries. 

The Weston Family Foundation is open to considering any proposed solutions that meet the eligibility criteria and have potential to address the Challenge statement.

You may enter as a single lead organization or as a team, provided that any team must have an eligible lead organization. Organizations may join or leave an innovation team at any stage in the Challenge, provided the lead innovator does not change.

Each principal investigator can only lead a single application but can collaborate or partner on other submissions for which they are not the principal investigator. Organizations may submit as many distinct applications as they wish.


Yes. We ask that you declare any previous involvement with other Weston Family Foundation projects on the application form so we are aware, but this will not preclude you from participating.

Berry eligibility criteria

The proposed system must be designed to produce one or more berries according to the eligibility criteria.

If your crop is not on the example list, you can reach out to us to confirm if your berry is in scope by emailing challenge@westonfoundation.ca.

The Foundation will consider projects that seek to develop a growing system for more than one berry, provided that only one system is developed to produce all target berries.  A project cannot seek to develop different production systems for different berries.

Challenge application and timeline

Visit How the Challenge works for details about the Challenge structure and key dates.

Visit How to apply for full details.

The amount of time to prepare and submit an application form may vary from applicant to applicant. We recommend logging onto the application platform to view the questions prior to submitting your application so you can assess how long this may take to complete. Applicants may also want to create a team, which can take time to develop, so this should also be factored into your timelines.

The Spark Awards are grants of up to $50,000 that are intended to support conceptualization, team-building, development of your application to enter the Shepherd Phase, etc. Please note that the deadline to apply for a Spark Award was in May 2022 and all Awards have now been granted.

We advise you to start your application as early as possible. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for technical difficulties after the application deadline. If you have problems with the online form please contact us at challenge@westonfoundation.ca.


Applications can only be edited prior to electronic submission.

Should you need to discuss your application further, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge team is offering 15-minute chats about your proposed solution. Please note the team will not be able to offer in-depth advice and that the judging panel—not the Homegrown Innovation Challenge team—will be responsible for selecting innovation teams and winners throughout the Challenge. Please book your 15-minute slot with a Homegrown Innovation Challenge team member if you want to discuss your application by emailing us at: challenge@westonfoundation.ca.

The Challenge aims to host in-person networking events in each of the Shepherd and Scaling phases to bring together the Challenge cohort and partners to share best practices and insights. You may also be required to travel in order to participate in interviews, which are an integral part of the selection process.

Our expert judging panel has a good understanding of the solution landscape to this problem and will aim to steer clear of “solution duplication”. This will be considered when scoring the “technological innovation” assessment criterion.

The assessment process

Please see the What Are We Looking For? section of the website for details on the assessment process.

Our expert judging panel was announced on April 5th, 2022. Please see the meet the judges page for more details.


Yes. Please see the Judging criteria section of the website for further details. 

Intellectual property rights

The Weston Family Foundation does not seek intellectual property rights in the idea or technology developed by both successful and unsuccessful applicants. That said, the Foundation may require provisions in any funding agreement that ensure best efforts are made to extend the benefits of ideas and technologies to Canadians without delay.

All applications to the Homegrown Innovation Challenge will be kept confidential. Applicants are required to share substantial information, including confidential information, with the Weston Family Foundation for the purposes of administering the Challenge. The Weston Family Foundation may in turn share this information with our partners in this Challenge, subject to appropriate obligations of confidentiality and data protection. More information on how we use your personal data is included in our privacy policy.

What to expect as a successful applicant

Please review the support we provide for all information on financial and other types of support.

The funding will be provided in the form of grants paid in Canadian dollars and, under normal circumstances, no statutory tax or fees will be withheld by the Weston Family Foundation.  Each grantee will be responsible for remitting any required taxes or fees.

These FAQs will be updated should additional questions arise.

If you have questions about the Homegrown Innovation Challenge which are not answered in the FAQs or elsewhere on the website, please contact us by emailing challenge@westonfoundation.ca.