2020 Improve Life Challenge - Community Partners

Company Overview:

Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) is the advocacy organization for Ontario’s beef farmers, developing and supporting landmark achievements that move the province’s beef industry forward sustainably and profitably. BFO is involved in a wide range of issues and initiatives that are important to all stakeholders, including industry sustainability, market development, animal health and care, environment, and food safety.

Problem Statement:

Currently in Canada, there are traceability options available that allow for some data sharing within the beef industry prior to carcass processing. However, as carcass data is not typically exchanged after processing, producers often lack the data required to interpret the quality of their product. Creating a solution to this gap in information would allow Ontario beef producers to enhance their product quality, to market their product and become a more competitive option with major beef retailers.  How might the beef industry create a system that allows processors to provide feedback to the producers with regards to the quality of their product?


Company Overview:

Conestoga Meats is a vertically integrated, farmer owed cooperative. They are owned by over 150 Ontario farmers and employ over 1000 people. They are a hog slaughter and processing plant located in Breslau Ontario that provides premium pork products to retailers and further processors both locally and internationally.

Problem Statement:

They are a vertically integrated pork processing facility – a coop owned by farmers. Conestoga Meats recognizes that sustainability is a key topic in agri-food and as part of their values “The Conestoga WAY” they are constantly working to “make responsible decisions with sustainability in mind”. Given they are a federally inspected meat processing facility they have various constraints and requirements regarding their packaging process. Keeping in mind the costs and benefits of various ideas how might Conestoga Meats improve sustainability in their packaging?


Company Overview:

The Co-operators Group Limited is a leading Canadian multi-line insurance and financial services co-operative. Our subsidiary companies provide solutions in four core areas: property and casualty (P&C) insurance, life insurance, institutional asset management and brokerage operations.

Farming isn’t like other business, so The Co-operators offers insurance plans specially designed to meet farmers' needs. Their vision to be a catalyst for a sustainable society is reflected in all aspects of their operations including their community investment programs, which support people in need and help build community resiliency. They support and fund the development of community-oriented co-operatives and social enterprises, and they work hard to contribute to communities across Canada.

Problem Statement:

Many losses within the farming industry could be prevented if farmers proactively had data available to them. The Co-operators have tools available to assist famers with proactive risk mitigation and minimize losses. How might The Co-operators better engage with clients to help them manage their risk in ways that they actually want our help?


Company Overview:

Highline Mushrooms has grown to become the largest mushroom grower in Canada and the world’s largest grower of organic mushrooms. Highline’s highly developed cropping techniques have enabled them to grow all white, mini bella and portabella mushrooms without the use of any pesticides or fungicides regularly required in the cultivation of mushrooms.

Highline is a fully integrated mushroom business with five (5) facilities in Ontario and Quebec, and eight (8) facilities in British Columbia and one (1) Alberta. It is the largest operator in the mushroom industry in Canada, marketing approximately 100 million pounds (45.5 million kg) of mushrooms per year.

Problem Statement:

Highline Mushrooms produces tons of spent compost every year across the country. The compost is high in nutrients but cannot be reused in the mushroom growing process. How might Highline mushrooms look for innovative ways of using the spent compost for other farms and their growing operations or other industries that might use it or products that can be developed?


In August 2008, the Holland Marsh Growers' Association was established through a $400,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. It is governed by a board of directors who oversee the projects and events the association conducts. The membership includes vegetable growers from the Holland Marsh to the Keswick Marsh and all the muck and mineral growing areas in between.

The Association promotes the Holland Marsh's produce, partners with researchers on projects that impacts the growers and helps navigate applicable laws and government programs.

Problem Statement:

Onion processors in Ontario have contracts to supply onions to retailers all year round. When all of the onions grown in Ontario are consumed, the processors will import onions, usually from USA or Mexico, to fill their order commitments. These onions are shipped to the Ontario processors in 50lb bags. The Ontario processor will empty the 50lb bags and pre-package into the 2lb, 5lb or 10lb packages that their customer is demanding. The 50lb polypropylene mesh bags (usually with polyethylene label) is collected at the processors. Recyclers do not accept the empty bags because they are difficult to process so there is nowhere for the bags to go except landfill currently.

Just one onion processor has reported that they collect 6000 empty bags per week for the typical 30% of the year where they are importing onions and there are six vegetable processors in the Holland Marsh area, alone.  How might Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, with the support of OMAFRA, either eliminate onion bags or avoid them entering landfill?


Company Overview:

1955, Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. (MLF) is Canada’s largest chicken processor. Their corporate headquarters are located in Brampton, Ontario, and they employ approximately 2,400 people. Their products include fresh and frozen chicken cuts, as well as many further processed items including chicken wieners, deli meats and breaded products. They are also Canada’s number one supplier of Halal meat to the consumer marketplace. Their products are sold domestically and in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Problem Statement:

Across the Ontario poultry industry, there is a great deal of very useful data that could help the industry produce better results. The challenge is that the data resides in different areas across the industry; at vet clinics, Chicken Framers of Ontario (CFO), processors and feed suppliers. The data is firewalled for perceived reasons of privacy or perceived competition. Getting very specific data, vs. “averages and assumptions” could prove to solve some real industry challenges/decisions, making Ontario chicken more competitive overall.

Example of questions that could be answered based on existing data are:

  • What was the impact of category 2 antibiotic reduction on bird quality, flock performance, welfare, achievement of kgs for the province?
  • What would the optimal bird density for reduced antibiotic programs?
  • Best management practices for reduced foot pad scoring?
  • What is the impact of treating therapeutically with category 2 antibiotics on birds quality, flock performance and welfare measures?
  • What are the factors or metrics that are most predictive of profitability for growers?

How might Maple Lodge Farms communicate the importance of data sharing to poultry industry stakeholders, to create a collaborative network all striving for excellence? What messaging best communicates the pivotal need for data sharing among government, vet clinics, Chicken farmers, processors and feed suppliers so we can improve the quality of Ontario chicken?


Company Overview:

The world population has grown swiftly from less than 2 billion in 1920 to more than 7 billion today, and a projected 9 billion by 2050. This rapid population growth requires a 77% increase in global agricultural production just to meet world population food demands. To this end, globally, we must triple crop yields by 2050 and double phosphate nutrient consumption. Fertilizer production is therefore crucial. OCP Group contributes to sustainably feeding a growing world population. With nearly a century of expertise, the Group makes innovation central to the development of tailored and effective fertilizers for balanced soil fertilization.

Problem Statement:

How might OCP support Farmers in East Canada, to use public data to make better predictions of yields? Data to be analyzed includes weather, fertilizer use and application rates, soil deficiencies and historical average yields (wheat, corn and canola).


Company Overview:

OMAFRA – Mental Health

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is an Ontario government ministry responsible for the food, agriculture and rural sectors of the Canadian province of Ontario.

Problem Statement:

Farmers and people in rural areas struggle with mental health issues, similar to their urban counterparts. However, the resources to respond to both acute and long term mental health issues, including emergencies, are limited or inaccessible. OMAFRA has developed formal resources (including this website http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/mental-health.htm) to respond to these concerns, but there is an opportunity to expand the available resources. How might OMAFRA develop a mental health resource that best fits the needs of rural Ontario?


Company Overview:

Wellington Brewery is Canada's oldest independently owned microbrewery. Based in Guelph, Ontario, they craft award-winning beers in small batches using the freshest all-natural ingredients. Since 1985, they've been a pioneer in the craft brewing scene by producing timeless, traditional style ales as well as experimenting with new recipes as part of their Welly One-Off Series.

As an independent and locally owned brewery, they take pride in being an active member of our community, taking part in countless events and supporting charitable causes. They believe that beer is best when it’s fresh and made in our community.

Problem Statement:

In addition to being a leader in our community Wellington Brewery strives to be a leader in sustainable practices. In 2015, as Wellington Brewery marked their 30th anniversary, the brewery broke ground on a major addition that added over 12,000 square feet to the building as well as a new brew house and state-of-the-art Krones packaging line. This world class brewing equipment is more efficient, allowing them to produce twice as much beer in half the time, while reducing the brewery’s environmental impact.

Wellington Brewery is looking to do more for the environment, with water waste being top of mind, and wants to understand how they can best make an impact and how they can measure their impact. How might Wellington Brewery implement processes that measure and evaluate their environmental impact?