The support we provide

We want to see teams develop innovations that will transform food production – and are prepared to provide the support necessary to achieve this goal. 

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At the Weston Family Foundation, we want to see innovators solve the problem of out-of-season production of berries – not only in the laboratory, but also at-scale in the greenhouse or on the farm. That’s why we are offering up to $33 million in grant funding available to the innovation teams that successfully navigate through the Spark, Shepherd and Scaling phases of the Challenge. For clarity, a single innovation team that participates in every phase of the Challenge and goes on to win the final prizes could receive over $8 million!

In addition to providing grants, the Weston Family Foundation is dedicated to supporting our grantees through networking and mentoring opportunities. As well, the Foundation provides communications support to further the impact of the teams’ work.

The Challenge timeline

A summary of the stage-gate approach we use to deploy this funding in an optimal manner can be found in the dynamic timeline below.

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February 8, 2022

Launch 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 on May 3, 2022. Participation in the Spark Phase was not a prerequisite to apply to the Shepherd Phase of the Challenge.

May – July 2022

Assessment 1

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

June – Dec 2022

Spark Phase

Spark Awards of up to $50,000 were used by grantees 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 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 selected 11 grantee teams for the Shepherd Phase.

Apr 2023 – Sept 2024

Shepherd Phase

The 11 grantee 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.

Jan – Feb 2025

Assessment 3

The independent judging panel selects 4 grantee teams for Scaling Phase.

Feb 2025 – Jan 2028

Scaling Phase

Each of the 4 grantee 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 achieved the objective set out in the Challenge statement.


Assessment 4

The independent judging panel selects Challenge winners.


Winners announced

1-2 grantee teams selected from the Scaling Phase are announced as Challenge winners. One million dollars each is available to the technology breakthrough winner and the overall Challenge winner (both awards could be won by the same team).