Thunder Bay biotech company wins Northern Ontario Innovation Challenge

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THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – A Thunder Bay start-up has been named the winner of the Northern Ontario Innovation Challenge run by Bioenterprise Canada, Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine. BioNorth Solutions has developed a line of microbe-based products that encourage plant growth, including in crops like barley and wheat.

Second place in the challenge was awarded to Agri-Tech North of Dryden, an indoor vertical farm and social enterprise that is the first of its kind year-round wholesale-scale grower of fresh produce in Northwestern Ontario. TECC Agriculture Ltd., a precision agriculture company in New Liskeard rounded out the top three.

“We congratulate all of our winners and are really pleased with the level of interest in the Challenge and the quality of participants that came forward,” says Bioenterprise Canada CEO Dave Smardon. “We’re always looking for new ways to identify and support innovative Northern Ontario businesses and start-ups in the food and agri-tech sector so we can help them reach new levels of success, both for themselves and for the Canadian economy.”

As the Grand Prize winner, BioNorth Solutions receives $5,000; all top three finishers also receive an upgraded Access Plus membership to the Engine, which will provide them with one year of business mentorship and networking support.

Five applicants made a pitch about their businesses to a judging panel on a public demo day held September 16. The other finalists included My-Pride Farm and Northern Vinter Inc., both of Thunder Bay. The event’s judges were Doug Knox, Innovation Advisor with Bioenterprise Canada; Kyle McCall, Business Development and Commercialization Manager with Ontario Centre for Innovation; and Gabe Ferguson, Leadership Programs Director at Rural Ontario Institute.

The Challenge is part of Bioenterprise Canada’s Northern Ontario pilot hub project that was launched last year to serve as a single source of agri-food sector networking and business acceleration services. The hub is focused on connecting Northern Ontario start-ups and early-stage businesses with services and targeted resources across Ontario and Canada.

Funding for the Northern Ontario pilot project is provided through FedNor’s Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation Fund, which supports the growth of Northern Ontario businesses.

As Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, Bioenterprise Canada brings more than 15 years of industry experience and a national and international network of research institutions, academia, mentors and experts, funders and investors, government, and industry partners to help small and medium-sized businesses in the agri-food sector nationwide connect, innovate, and grow.