The Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates the agri-food producers, processors, organizations and rural communities, who through their innovative ideas and projects are helping strengthen our communities, support a sustainable environment, create jobs and boost our economy.
The following are regional award recipients from Grey County, Perth County, Simcoe County, Waterloo Region and Wellington County.
Bighead Hops – Meaford
Ontario grown hops seems like the ideal choice for brewers and micro-brewers across the province, however, there’s just one problem. Most breweries are set up for pelletized hops, but the price tag of commercial pellet mills is well beyond the budget of small-scale hops producers. That’s where the folks at Meaford Hops come into play. They got creative and banded together with other similar producers’ to adapt a pelletizer for their specific needs and scale. Breweries and cideries are snapping up the hops, giving them the resources they need to expand the operation and grow even more acres of hops in Ontario.
Escarpment Laboratories – Guelph
You can’t make beer without yeast – the microscopic beasties that create both the alcohol and provide much of the flavour in your favourite brew -right? Well, not anymore. Ontario craft breweries no longer need to rely on yeast. The Guelph’s Escarpment Laboratories now offers a local supply of yeasts, from a tried-and-true classics to new, made-in-Ontario strains like “Wild Thing”: ale yeast isolated from a local apple orchard. Beer from apples? Yum! The company is working with different breweries to develop custom blends for unique flavours. Currently, the company sells 20 different strains and blends, with several hundred more in development and is working on increasing production capacity 10-fold in the coming years, helping the province’s breweries produce 100 per cent local beer.
Bright Cheese & Butter – Bright
Established in 1874, Bright Cheese and Butter know a thing or two about the aging process. So when an importer was looking to replace internationally sourced asiago product with a local alternative, the Oxford County cheese makers stepped up. To improve quality and shelf life, they tweaked their recipe with different cultures and modified the aging process itself. The results? Better Asiago, faster. In addition to improving the operation’s bottom line, their innovation provides a local alternative, conserves energy thanks to faster aging and draws food tourists to the Oxford County Cheese Trail.