The promise of research and innovation commercialization in the agriculture and food sectors is front and centre thanks to a new Memorandum of Understanding signed between Lakehead University and Bioenterprise Corporation, showcasing the value of Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine (The Engine) in northern Ontario.
Lakehead University is taking a very active role in the development of technologies, which will have specific benefit to the agricultural sector and has seen success in providing useful tools to primary producers and the procession sector.
Whether it is the evaluation of formulations of fertilizer on new crops, small plot research studies for industry, biotechnological analytical services, or the evaluation of technologies which have positive environmental implications, Lakehead University is making a statement that it is strongly focused on providing value and service back to the agricultural sector.
This is also a goal of Bioenterprise, where in northern Ontario they are trying to support entrepreneurs and have new innovations come to market locally and in other diverse jurisdictions. This commonality of purpose is reflected in the two organizations agreement to cooperate in the development of technologies including but not limited to the areas of cleantech, industrial applications for agriculture, food-tech, and commercial agriculture.
Bioenterprise wants to provide resources for ag- and food-tech businesses that are not necessarily available currently. Bioenterprise’s model is to work with partners in the region to collaboratively deliver its services to promote commercialization of innovative new products/services and technologies in the same areas and is building the capacity to bring human and investment capital to commercialization opportunities within the north.
It is expected that this agreement will ignite The Engine in northwestern Ontario and provide opportunities to companies and entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses by working with the network that exists within The Engine.
The short-term objective is to work with these companies on a one-on-one basis, providing access to services and support through the network to companies like IBM, MNP and Farm Credit Canada with the expressed purpose to expand their reach, enhance commercialization potential, and support job creation and expansion in the innovation agri-tech and food-tech sectors in northern Ontario.
Lakehead University recently launched its first business incubator, Ingenuity, to foster an entrepreneurial culture, create employment and self-employment opportunities, incubate start-ups and contribute to the region’s economic development by leveraging existing community resources to deliver a range of on-campus entrepreneurship activities. This makes Ingenuity the perfect place to house Bioenterprises’ northern Ontario representative in order to work together to better support ag- and food-tech businesses.
Lakehead is a New Entrant in the Agri-Tech and Food-Tech Entrepreneurial Space
“We are very interested in beginning to tackle agricultural innovation and development, particularly in the areas of agriculture, agri-business and food security. This is highlighted through our partnership with the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association, created creating the Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station (LUARS)” says Dr. Andrew Dean, Vice President (Research & Innovation) for LU.
“With our new association with Bioenterprise, this will open up all kinds of opportunities for northern entrepreneurship and innovation, supporting at the same time our desire to become a hub for agricultural innovation in north-western Ontario and increase the visibility of what we do to the entire agricultural ecosystem across Canada. This will support of diversity in agriculture, agribusiness, environmental studies, water management, soil science, food security, natural resources management, and other areas that have a significant regional priority."
“Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine will have a strong position in northern Ontario as a result of this co-operative agreement with Lakehead, and this will be to the benefit of all, including entrepreneurs, businesses and stakeholders from under-represented groups because we know they have a lot to offer for local economic presence as well as striking out to other markets,” says Dave Smardon, Chief Executive Officer at Bioenterprise.
“Northern Ontario is full of cultural diversity, and we look forward to working with women entrepreneurs, Indigenous businesses and other entrepreneurs who can use our services and who also may cooperate with Lakehead University. We recognize that Lakehead has only recently began its foray into the ag sector, but with leadership at the university very keen on seeing successful companies grow, our partnership will yield great results. We have worked in the north previously, but this agreement really cements our position with a terrific academic partner in the north. We are thrilled to be able to work with Lakehead, their programs, personnel and expertise to offer knowhow and resources as part of The Engine."
The Engine is made up of members and partners across Canada and around the world that are focused on agritech and food tech developments. Lakehead University will be able to tap into and provide expertise to many of the companies who focus on precision agricultural developments, including digital, robotics, data management, genomics, soil, plant and animal health, environmental technologies and many more. Because Lakehead now has a focus on agriculture, its graduates will be exposed to more opportunities through the association with Bioenterprise.
This will provide students opportunities to many facets of the agriculture and food supply chains, as well as promote diversity and self-sustainability for northern communities through economic development. Lakehead University, through its acquisition of the Lakehead Agricultural Research Station, will be able to provide a testing ground for new inventions that could have impact in northern Ontario, and indeed western Canada.
Bioenterprise clients want to grow and expand their businesses, enhance profitability and expand markets while at the same time elevating their local economic contributions. With Lakehead University, including Ingenuity as a partner in The Engine, they may be able to realize some of these objectives. Through this partnership, both organizations expect to see an increase in the level of innovation, the advancement of skilled workers, and enhanced growth in the agricultural economy in Northern Ontario.