The Agri-Food Sector in Ontario has always been innovative in running their businesses, adapting practices and looking for partners to compete in the global economy. To help spur this innovative spirit, the Ontario government created the Excellence in Agriculture program.

The purpose of the Excellence in Agriculture program is to:

  • recognize and encourage innovators in the agri-food sector
  • foster innovation in the agri-food sector which has an effect on farms
  • raises awareness of the importance of agri-food innovation and its impact on the Ontario economy

About the awards

Program awards include:

  • up to seven top awards (one in each category)
  • up to twenty-one honourable mentions

The top innovation in each of the seven categories will:

  • receive a plaque in recognition of their achievement
  • receive an Excellence in Agriculture wordmark to be used for marketing and promotional mentions will be awarded.

Honourable mention recipients will receive:

  • a certificate
  • an Excellence in Agriculture wordmark to be used for marketing and promotional purposes

Eligibility criteria

To meet the eligibility criteria, you must:

Eligible applicants

You are eligible to apply under the program if one of the following apply to you.

Primary producer

A farm business that is a legal entity and produces agricultural commodities in Ontario under a valid Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN), or an allowable exemption.

The farm business operator/producer must:

  • reside in Ontario
  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada


A processor business that is a legal entity that handles agricultural commodities, food, beverages or agri-based products in Ontario.

The processor business operator must both:

  • be a Canadian owned company with fewer than 100 permanent full-time salaried and non-salaried employees
  • have a minimum of 50% of the food ingredients used in its Ontario-based manufacturing facility must be sourced from Ontario growers/producers

Agri-food organization

An agri-food organizations is a not-for-profit and Ontario-based (that is, located in Ontario and, where applicable, has a membership composed primarily of Ontario residents/businesses/organizations), with a direct relationship or mandate to the agri-food sector.

Educational institution

An educational institution is an Ontario-based high school or accredited Ontario university/ college.

The institution must demonstrate awareness-building, innovation, training and/or skill development directly related to the Ontario Agri-Food Sector.

Agri-food innovator (an individual or agri-food business that is not a processor or farm business)

An agri-food innovator is an individual or agri-food business that is not a process or farm business. They must also be:

  • a resident of Ontario
  • demonstrate a direct relationship to the agri-food sector
  • a citizen or permanent resident of Canada
  • if Agri-food business, the primary business must be located in Ontario with fewer than 100 permanent  full-time salaried and non-salaried employees (if applicable)

Northern Indigenous businesses and/or communities

A Northern Indigenous business must:

  • be wholly owned and operated by Indigenous peoples
  • be operated in Northern Ontario
  • demonstrate a direct relationship to the Northern Ontario agri-food sector

An Indigenous community must:

  • be located in Northern Ontario
  • demonstrate a direct relationship to the Northern Ontario agri-food sector All applicants must comply with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation which applies to the operation of the innovation.

“Northern Ontario” means the geographic area set out in the map found here: Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund: northern processor boundaries map.

Ineligible applicants

You are not eligible to apply to the awards if you are:

  • an employee of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
  • a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and any combination of agri-food business or agri-food related organization in which OMAFRA employees are owners, members or have a controlling and/or financial interest
  • a member of the research community

Innovation outcomes

You must demonstrate how you’ve met at least one of the priority innovation outcomes.

“Innovation” is defined as the application of new ideas to solve problems and to address challenges.

Priority innovation outcomes include:

  • addressing labour shortage issues through supply chain innovations
  • mitigating COVID 19 risks to enhance workers’ health and safety
  • enhancing food safety, traceability and/or stewardship practices in the Ontario Agri-Food Sector
  • increasing/ maintaining access to high-quality, local and nutritious food
  • supporting agriculture and rural economic growth including market development and trade
  • increasing public engagement and support for agriculture and local food
  • building leadership capacity and increased involvement of women and youth in the agri-food sector
  • strengthening public trust and public knowledge about Ontario’s agri-food sector

Here are some examples of how you might demonstrate innovation:

  • An invention, new technology, new process, new product, or new service that is not currently available in the Ontario marketplace.
  • Significant modifications to the application of existing technologies, products, processes or services that are applied in a setting or condition for which current applications are not possible or feasible in Ontario.
  • An improvement to an existing technology, process, product, or service that represents a significant (generally patentable) improvement in functionality, cost or performance of goods and services that are considered state of the art or new to Ontario's industry/sectors.

Award categories

You must indicate which award category you are applying to on the application form (see “How to Apply”).

  1. COVID Agri-Food Innovation Champion
    • have demonstrated implemented innovative solutions to address COVID-19 related challenges in the Agri-Food sector
  2. Innovation in Food Processing
    • have demonstrated how innovation has supported the efficiency and/or effectiveness of the Ontario Agri-Food processing sector.
  3. Innovation in Agriculture
    • can demonstrate how innovation has supported efficiency and/or effectiveness of Ontario’s Agriculture sector
    • there is limited adoption of the identified innovation in Ontario’s Agriculture sector
  4. Women in Agriculture
    • have demonstrated agri-food leadership and how those efforts are supporting the growth and development of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector
  5. Youth in Agriculture
    • applicant is under 29 years old
    • has demonstrated agri-food leadership and how those efforts are supporting the growth and development of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector
  6. Education in Agriculture
    • demonstrates awareness building, innovation, training and/or skill development that supports growth within the Ontario Agri-Food Sector
  7. Northern and indigenous owned business and communities
    • has implemented innovative solutions to support the Agri-Food sector:
      • awareness building, innovation, training and/or skill development and/or innovative solutions to address COVID-19 related challenges

How to apply

Make sure you have Adobe Acrobat Reader. You need this software to complete the form.

If you require the application in an alternative format, please email excellenceinagriculture@ontario.ca.

Supporting documentation

Supporting documentation for your application is optional, but we strongly encourage you to include:

  • letters of support
  • photos (in JPG format) supporting their innovative initiatives, if available

Selection process

The following process will be used to select the Excellence in Agriculture award recipients:

  1. We receive the applications.
  2. We send an acknowledgement email to each applicant.
  3. We review the applications for eligibility.
  4. We evaluate all applications and make award recommendations on the top applications to the Deputy Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  5. The minister reviews the recommended applications and in their sole discretion, select the recipients of the top awards and honourable mentions.

Assessment criteria

The following criteria will be used to assess applications.

Impact and benefit

How do the outcomes of your work positively impact Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector through economic, and/or social/community benefits? 

Uniqueness and originality

How new or novel is your innovation within Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector? Did you develop it yourself, modify existing technology/processes or did you adapt this technology/process from elsewhere to make it more relevant to the Ontario Agri-Food Sector?

Adoption and/or commercialization

Does this innovation have potential for broader use beyond your business, organization, or community?  If so, how has it been or how could it be adopted for broader use by other farms, businesses, organizations, or community?

Terms and conditions

  • Applicants must be in compliance with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation.
  • Only one application per eligible applicant can be submitted during the intake. However, applicants must choose one award category on their application. 
  • Applicants must be willing to participate in virtual interviews, site visits, photographs and video recordings at the discretion of the ministry or selection committees.
  • The ministry has reserved the right to refuse an application where concerns have been identified with respect to, without limitation, non-compliance with regulatory legislation and requirements, undue influence and/or misleading and inaccurate information.
  • The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in their sole discretion, may for any reason and at any time retract an award, including the use of the Excellence in Agriculture wordmark, and affected award winners will unconditionally follow all directions issued to them thereafter concerning the same.


If you have any questions or feedback, call us toll Free at 1-877-424-1300 or email excellenceinagriculture@ontario.ca.