Weston Family Foundation Announces Expert Judging Panel for the $33M Homegrown Innovation Challenge

TORONTO – The Weston Family Foundation has selected an international panel of expert judges for its $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge. The panel will be chaired by Dominic Barton, former chair of Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth.

The Homegrown Innovation Challenge launched on February 8, 2022, to catalyze innovation by enabling solutions to solve the interconnected challenges that currently prevent the out-of-season production of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada. Participants in the Challenge are asked to create market-ready systems for growing berries year-round in Canada on a commercially viable scale. Teams that successfully complete the Challenge could be awarded up to $8 million in funding from the Weston Family Foundation.

The independent judging panel assembled by the Weston Family Foundation includes the following members:

“Collectively, the members of our panel offer a breadth of experience in food systems innovation and will be instrumental in helping teams conceptualize and bring sustainable, locally-grown food production solutions to market,” said Emma Adamo, chair, Weston Family Foundation.
“We’re grateful to each member for their time and commitment to ensure top innovations are unearthed throughout the Challenge.”

The Weston Family Foundation expects a wide range of ideas to come from the Homegrown Innovation Challenge applications. Based on the preset judging criteria, the judging panel will leverage their expertise and experience to select the strongest contenders. The primary objective of these criteria is to assess the system developed, and not solely the berries produced, to lead to solutions applicable to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

“Canada is well-positioned to be a global leader in agricultural innovation and create a more sustainable and resilient food system,” said judging panel chair Dominic Barton. “The Homegrown Innovation Challenge is an exciting opportunity, and I am honoured to lead this panel of prestigious colleagues to find creative solutions to a global issue.”

The six-year Challenge runs in several phases. The first Spark Award phase will see the selection of as many as 15 innovators, each receiving up to $50,000 to support the development of their concept, formation of a team, completion of their full application, and more. Spark Awards are not mandatory, and teams that do not apply for one or are not successful in their application may still apply for the overall Challenge in the Shepherd Phase.

Teams can submit their Spark Award applications until the May 3, 2022 deadline (12 p.m. ET).

Learn more about the application criteria and process and register for the informational webinar on April 13 at 1:00 p.m. EST at www.homegrownchallenge.ca.

About the Homegrown Innovation Challenge
With funding and support from the Weston Family Foundation, the $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge aims to spark creative solutions and encourage new ideas to boost the sustainable production of fruits and vegetables in Canada.

Over six years, eligible teams will advance through a series of funded phases as they create, test and refine their systems to grow berries out of season and at scale, leading to selecting both an overall winner and a technology breakthrough winner. The winning team could receive up to $8 million in funding. By solving the interconnected challenges that currently prevent year-round berry production on a commercial scale, the Homegrown Innovation Challenge will catalyze a range of systems relevant to a broad array of fruit and vegetable crops in Canada and around the world, dramatically increasing food availability and food system resiliency in a climate-changing world.

About the Weston Family Foundation
At the Weston Family Foundation (formerly The W. Garfield Weston Foundation), more than 60 years of philanthropy has taught us that there’s a relationship between healthy landscapes and healthy people. That’s why we champion world-class health research and innovation with the same passion that we support initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity on our unique landscapes. We take a collaborative approach to philanthropy, working alongside forward-thinking partners to advance Canada and create lasting impacts. We aspire to do more than provide funding; we want to enable others to find transformational ways to improve the well-being of Canadians.