More than 75 food and beverage processing professionals from across Niagara, Hamilton and the GTA converged on Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus on May 23 to learn how they can get their products on supermarket shelves.
‘Raise the Barcode’ was a collaborative event hosted by the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. Organizing partners included Niagara Economic Development, Hamilton Economic Development, Niagara’s Small Business Enterprise Centres and Cushman Wakefield.
Attendees listened and asked questions of Gary Macdonald from Whole Foods Market and Casey Eleusiniotis and Andrea Ramlogan from Jon Luca Enterprise, who shared how to craft a competitive market pitch to grocers, and get products in stores. Afterwards, attendees toured Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute to see how the CFWI Innovation Centre supports local food manufacturers through applied research and development projects.
“Today was very informative; I wish they had this four or five years ago,” said Joanne Van Liefland, owner of St. Catharines-based food manufacturer Wrap it Up Raw Inc. “Anytime these events can help a small business to grow not only helps the business, but also helps the community and local employment. You can always gain something from someone else’s experience.”
The Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students with the right expertise and equipment to meet industry needs.
“Our Centre exists to help companies in the food and beverage sector commercialize new products and bring them to market,” said Lyndon Ashton, manager, Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre. “We do this by supporting food entrepreneurs with developing concepts into prototypes and helping them scale up to commercially viable products, all the while training the next generation of talent who is directly involved in the innovation process.”
Because a majority of the Centre’s clients are small-and medium-sized businesses, knowledge transfer is critical. “Events like this provide them with key information that they can use to make business decisions and better understand how to navigate and succeed in some of the final links in the value chain – distribution and retailing,” said Ashton.
The Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST) has honoured NC’s Amy Proulx PhD, professor and program coordinator of the College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program, with a President’s Award at its recent national conference, held May 27-29 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Proulx is also a faculty research lead with the CFWI Innovation Centre.
The CIFST is a national association of more than 1,000 food and beverage sector professionals, scientists and technologists in industry, government and academia who are committed to advancing food science and technology.
The award honours Proulx’s longtime commitment and contributions to the CIFST, which began over 20 years ago when Proulx was just getting started in the industry. She currently serves on the national conference committee as well as the national board of directors for the institute.
“CIFST opened so many opportunities for me as a young food scientist,” said Proulx. “The opportunities that came from participating in CIFST events, and the benefits for my own career were evident. Now it is my turn to return the favour and encourage our next generation of young food science professionals.”
Proulx also had the opportunity to captain the first winning team of the CIFST’s National Food Product Development Student Challenge in 2000, in which teams post-secondary students compete to create an innovative new food product. Proulx continues to be involved as a national judge for the competition, and this year helped arrange for the Canadian Food and Wine institute to host the competition, allowing students to make use of the world-class culinary facilities to create their products.
This year’s winners of the competition were Universite Laval students Marc-Antoine Vézina, Laura Lapointe, Alexane Thiffeault and Roxanne Nolet, who created an innovative “Veggie Waffle.”
Industry partner Iron Will Raw has announced today its expansion move into a 12,000 sq.ft. state-of-the-art production facility in St. Catharines. The new facility was constructed to meet federal food safety guidelines set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for human food production.
“This plant will allow the company to become an industry leader in meeting the highest possible food safety standards for raw pet food manufacturers,” says Iron Will Raw President Matt Bonanno.
Iron Will Raw Inc. has partnered with Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division to develop and implement a HACCP-compliant food safety program to ensure that food safety is the number one priority in their products, along with high-quality natural ingredients.
“I am excited to hear this news about Iron Will’s new facility. When the team and I first met Patti and Matt, they were setting a new bar for pet food safety. Since then, we have collaborated on two projects and they even hired our Culinary Innovation & Food Science student who worked on the project for his summer co-op term,” says Kristine Canniff, Project Manager, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.
“This will be a state of the art facility with food products that will keep our furry friends as healthy as we are when it comes to safe, quality food.”
Niagara College’s role in driving innovation, creating jobs and training students, was featured in the House on Tuesday.
As part of its parliamentary business, St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle promoted the College’s applied research efforts and success: “Colleges play an essential role in training Canadians with the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy and in helping local businesses innovate and create new jobs,” he said.
“In the Niagara region, through the Community & College Innovation Program, small businesses partner with Niagara College’s Technology Access Centres on innovative research to help them stay competitive—expand their businesses. They also provide young Canadians with the opportunity to gain hands-on training and job experience.”
His remarks were endorsed by Hon. Kirsty Duncan (Minister of Science, Min. of Sport & Persons with Disabilities): “Our government knows that colleges are essential in driving innovation in Canada,” she said. “When I visited the Niagara region with the member from St. Catharines I heard directly from local businesses about how this investment will train students. It will also help businesses solve pressing challenges, allowing them to stay competitive, grow their businesses and create jobs.”
Last July Minister Duncan and MP Vance Badawey toured the two Tech Access Centres (TACs) at Niagara College: The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre and the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.
They met with a number of industry partners who have worked with both Innovation Centres and who spoke to the assistance they received by the student-staff research teams in helping their businesses innovate and grow.
Nathan Knapp-Blezius, a second-year Culinary Innovation and Food Technology student, and CFWI Research Assistant at the CFWI Innovation Centre, has been featured in a series of videos produced by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The videos highlight innovative work being done in CFI-funded labs across the country, and the exemplary students and researchers doing that work.
Nathan was selected for the shoot thanks to innovative research he is conducting with the CFWI Innovation Centre using lab equipment funded by the CFI.
Nathan was also on Parliament Hill this week (Feb. 13) as part of the CFI’s #IAMInnovation campaign, which raises awareness of the work being done in labs across the country using equipment funded by CFI. Of the eight students from across the country being showcased, Nathan is the only college student.
Watch the video see how Nathan is making waves in the food world developing a cricket pesto.
Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is a leader in the technology and agri-food sector, and that expertise has helped secure grants totalling $890,000, that will fund innovative projects in precision agriculture and partnerships with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Today, Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, announced funding projects from across Ontario that received funding through the Colleges Applied Research & Development Fund (CARDF), including at Niagara College. The fund connects businesses with colleges to tackle R&D challenges and launch innovative new products and services
“Our province needs talent to continue to sustain its growing innovation eco-system. Investing in applied research and development is a step towards a brighter and more prosperous future for our province,” said Moridi. “By bringing together colleges and the R&D sector, we’re creating opportunities for our students and ensuring they are ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Re-inventing the farm through precision agriculture
Dr. Mike Duncan, NC Researcher and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies, is a world-leader in variable-rate technology, a study of farm field’s topography and crop yields, and atmospheric variability, all major factors in determining farm profitability.
“The reinvention of the farm means developing smarter technology to rise to the challenge of fewer farmers managing more land for a growing global population,” said Duncan. “Automation and wireless sensory technology provides a profitable way to use collected data, and it will also support environmental stewardship by reducing fertilizer runoff.”
Under the program, a grant of $700,000 will allow Duncan and his team at Niagara College to advance current projects in agriculture technologies, in addition to seeking out other potential partners in the agri-food sectors, such as crop and commodity organizations, farmers, technology and food processing companies.
The grant will also allow NC students to translate the skills they’ve learned in the classroom into real-world partnerships with industry.
“This provincial grant will allow for more than 200 students obtaining skills enhanced by real-world experiences, by participating with project leads, collaborators and partners, to create solutions to industry challenges,” said NC Associate Vice President of Research and Innovation, Dr. Marc Nantel. “Team members will learn about agricultural data, scaling solutions, prototype development, full-scale problem solving and more.”
Partnering to help students and businesses succeed
Niagara College also received a $190,000 grant from the OCE to allow SMEs a way to advance their products, improve their performance or take an innovative leap forward, through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.
Under the program, Niagara College will provide vouchers to 23 companies to help solve their innovation challenges related to technology adoption, in the sectors of food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture and environmental technologies. Businesses will work with expert faculty, students and researchers from Niagara College’s three Innovation Centres, to acquire new prototypes, products, processes, and test results that validate their products and services, all bringing them close to market.
Businesses interested in accessing these partnership opportunities with the Research & Innovation team can contact Elizabeth Best at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-641-2252 Ext. 4287.
Niagara College’s Research & Innovation conducts research projects with industry partners through its Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The division also offers support in the areas of digital media and web solutions and business and commercialization solutions. For more information on Research & Innovation, visit ncinnovation.ca/
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and aesthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
CARDF is supported by the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science in partnership with OCE and Colleges Ontario; the $20-million program aims to drive increased industry/post-secondary collaborations while creating an efficient marketplace for industry to access innovation, productivity and commercialization services from colleges; provide experiential learning opportunities for college students; and better align colleges with the needs of companies and strategic sectors, which will enable the development of new products, services and processes, facilitate productivity improvements, and help generate new revenues and high-value jobs for Ontario.