Ontario’s farmers, processors, organizations and businesses have made agri-food one of the most innovative sectors in Ontario.

To help spur this innovative spirit, we created the Excellence in Agriculture program, which:

  • recognizes and encourage innovators in the agri-food sector
  • fosters innovation in the agri-food sector which has a direct effect on farms
  • raises awareness about the importance of agri-food innovation and its impact on the Ontario economy

The program is open to agri-food innovators in the following five categories:

  • youth (under 29)
  • primary producer
  • processor
  • agri-food innovator
  • agri-food organization

Note: this awards program is not intended for the research community.

The top innovation in each of the five categories will:

  • receive a plaque in recognition of their achievement
  • be featured in a promotional video
  • receive an Excellence in Agriculture wordmark to be used for marketing and promotional purposes

Up to 15 honourable 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

Eligible applicants

You are eligible to apply under the program if you are:

A primary producer/farmer

  • must be a resident of Ontario
  • must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada

If you are a primary producer/farmer, you must have one of the following to apply to the program:

  • a valid Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN)
  • a copy of your recent Income Exemption Confirmation letter from the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program
  • Beginning farmers and those who actively farmed in the year prior to the program intake can provide a recent copy of the property assessment notice from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) which confirms the property is classified as a farm and eligible for the Farm Property Class tax rate, or a copy of their municipal tax bill declaring the property as Farm Taxable (FT).
  • If a farm business chooses not to have a FBRN for cultural or religious reasons, they must provide one of the following:
    • religious reasons - a copy of the Religious Exemption Letter as provided by Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (AFRAAT)
    • cultural reasons - First Nations producers may provide a letter from the Indian Agriculture Program of Ontario (IAPO) verifying the farm business operates in the First Nations community

A processor

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

An agri-food organization

  • must be Ontario based with a direct relationship or mandate to the agri-food sector

An agri-food innovator

  • must demonstrate a direct relationship to the agri-food sector
  • primary location of your business must be in Ontario
  • must be a resident of Ontario
  • must have fewer than 100 annual full-time salaried and non-salaried employees in total


  • must be under age 29
  • must demonstrate a direct relationship to the agri-food sector
  • primary location of your business or project must be in Ontario
  • must be a resident of Ontario

All applicants must comply with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation which applies to the operation of the innovation.

Innovation areas

Examples of innovation areas include but are not limited to:

  • improved business practices
  • response to consumer demands, for example, new production and processing methods or product development
  • response to expanding consumer tastes, for example, locally-grown and produced world foods
  • collaborations, such as strategic alliances or cross-sector partnerships
  • environmental stewardship
  • energy and bio-economy
  • health and safety
  • food safety and traceability
  • education and marketing of the agriculture and food industry

Note: only one application per applicant can be submitted in any one year.

Applicants must be willing to participate in interviews, site visits, photographs and video recordings at the discretion of the ministry or selection committees.

We have the right to refuse an application where concerns have been identified around:

  • compliance with regulatory legislation and requirements
  • undue influence
  • misleading and inaccurate information

Ineligible applicants

You are ineligible to apply for the program 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

Application process

The application form will be available on this page when the program is open.

To apply for the program, you must complete all required fields and submit a complete application. A complete application will include:

  • an application form
  • supporting documentation and pictures. You will be prompted to upload these as part of your application

Review your application before you submit. Once you click “I am ready to submit my application,” your application and attachments will be submitted.

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

Selection process

  1. Applications are received.
  2. An acknowledgement email will be sent to each applicant.
  3. Applications will be reviewed for eligibility and prepared for consideration by a review panel or panels.
  4. The review panel(s) will 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 will review the recommended applications and select the top awards and honorable mentions.

Assessment criteria

The following criteria will be used to assess applications.

Impact or benefit

The economic and/or social benefit to Ontario's agri-food sector resulting from the innovation.

Uniqueness and originality

The historical information of where the innovation originated and the uniqueness of design or style utilized to produce the innovation.


The extent to which the idea or concept has been thought through to completion. Consideration may be given to the stage of development, such as emerging through to mature.

Operational benefits

The innovation must have been developed or be in development and currently be in use or have a future use in the agri-food sector.

Adoption and/or commercialization

The degree of success (or potential for success) of adoption by other agri-food businesses or the commercialization and marketing of the innovation.

Broader use

The innovation must have potential for use on a broader basis and be able to demonstrate the potential for having a positive effect on the agricultural industry.


Email us at excellenceinagriculture@ontario.ca.

Updated: August 06, 2021
Published: November 16, 2020