This is about more than berries: it’s about the future of food in Canada.

Without imports Canada could run out of fresh produce in just 10 days

Figuring out how to extend the growing season of berries is a great first step towards reducing our over-reliance on imports in general.

We have the talent and the physical resources to increase food supply resiliency and to transform the way we produce food—on a national and a global scale. 

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When it comes to food, we like to think of Canada as a land of plenty, but our growing season is short. Despite abundant fresh water and vast expanses of arable land, as much as 80% of our fresh produce is imported. Climate change, extreme weather, and geopolitical issues are likely to pose ongoing risks to our domestic food production and the reliability of import supply chains. This is a critical moment for global food vulnerability.

The Homegrown Innovation Challenge is bringing together Canadian farmers, producers, and innovators to play a leadership role in the future of food production. There is a place on the farm for growers, engineers, scientists, and academics.

You can’t grow lettuce in a snowbank

Long Canadian winters and the high cost of production means that we import the majority of our fresh produce from other countries. 

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Growing food indoors isn’t a new idea, but it is costly in terms of labour and energy. Our teams are working to develop cost-effective, low energy systems and solutions that can be adapted to growing conditions from coast to coast to coast. These new tools and technologies will enable Canadian farmers and producers to sustainably and competitively grow berries out of season. This benefits all Canadians by increasing access to environmentally-sustainable and nutritious fruits and vegetables no matter the season.

Canada is not the only country facing climate challenges, but its temperature extremes and harsh landscapes combined with a long agricultural history and sound environmental policy make it an ideal testbed for innovation in global food production.

A warming planet is changing the way we grow our food

In the face of so many challenges, Canada requires a food system that is resilient to shocks and disruptions.

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It is of utmost importance that novel growing systems be environmentally sustainable as agriculture both creates pressures on the environment (through its use of water, land, and energy) and is highly sensitive to environmental changes. Canadian growers and producers are already working hard to find a balance between the environment, livelihoods and sufficient food supply. The pressures of Covid-19 and other potential pandemics, global political insecurity, unpredictable weather, and labour shortages will continue to add additional strain to this mix.

Our grantees are working to generate innovative, radical approaches that will bring systematic change to farming practices by integrating considerations, such as environmental sustainability, renewable energy, production reliability, and value.

The Challenge is about investing in our collaborative ecosystem of homegrown talent and creating solutions for all Canadians.

The adoption of evolving practices and technologies requires shared learning, especially in our agricultural sector where 40% of Canadian farm operators will retire by 2033.

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Farms of the future will have to adopt new approaches and technologies in order to improve efficiency and sustainability, with value to growers at top of mind. Growing systems that harness the benefits of AI and robotics can complement traditional farming, and can potentially reduce the need for labour and other inputs. Alternative ways of growing will require novel skillsets, and will offer new job opportunities and other benefits. Living a life that isn’t tethered to the farm, one where vacation is a possibility, appeals to the next generation of farmers.