Guelph to host new agri-food accelerator

The University of Guelph has created a new organization to help launch agri-food ideas and innovations.

Accelerator Guelph aims to provide business training, help create networks and provide a process to innovators in agriculture and food at the university.

Why does it matter? Getting research and great ideas from university researchers to the market has been a challenging process. The University of Guelph has many examples of innovations that have had significant impact on farming, but it believes more can be done.

Accelerator Guelph was launched during an innovation showcase Friday in Guelph that highlighted innovation in agriculture and food at the university.

“Our researchers have bold, ambitious ideas, and their work addresses gaps and helps solve problems while shaping the future of food and agriculture in Canada and beyond,” said Malcolm Campbell, the university’s vice-president for research.

The four-phase accelerator program will provide business planning, executive leadership training, financial and accounting expertise and human resources management.

The university has licensed the successful Waterloo accelerator system which includes a tool that helps innovators through feasibility of their ideas, said Dana McCauley, associate director of new venture creations in the University of Guelph’s Research Innovation Office.

The Research Innovation Office has been reorganized; the Catalyst Centre, which was created to transfer technology from the university to the market, has been moved into the reorganized office.

“The real magic of our program isn’t that we are bootcamping these academics through entrepreneurial training, but it will come later,” McCauley said.

“My job is to create a big enough network that I can take these proven concepts that do have good leadership and pair them with more traditional entrepreneurial people.”

Researchers don’t need to be CEO material, she said, but there has to be a process for them to get their great ideas to the market.

A pilot cohort, involving six ideas the Research Innovation Office is using to test the Accelerator Guelph concept, has been identified. The cohort includes:

  • Ibrahim Deiab and team are designing a low-cost additive manufacturing solution, like a 3D printer, for metals or bio-consumables made from agricultural waste that can produce manufacturing parts with reasonable accuracy. The effect will be to reduce down time in food and other factories and make it much easier run plant trials and test innovative new ideas.
  • Amberley Ruetz and Leah Blechschmidt are starting their business with a consumer insight. They have identified that schools in Ontario lack nutritionally dense, shelf-stable snacks and they plan to create a product that matches school food guidelines and that students love.
  • Wael Ahmed and his partners at FlorNergia have developed an innovative airlift pump that improves performance and reduces energy usage in aquaponic and aquaculture applications, making sustainable fish farming more viable.
  • Sujeevan Ratnasingham, has created LifeScanner, a kit that can be used to test the DNA of food to ensure against food fraud quickly and affordably.
  • Kevin Piunno, has created a user-centric, modular, easily-adapted growth vessel that is more ergometric and flexible than traditional tools used in biology labs.
  • Mannick Annamalai has created a new free-flowing encapsulated maple powder that will allow consumers and food product developers to do new things with naturally sweet, local maple products.

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

malcolm campbell
Sure smells good in the kitchen.” Andrew Jackson seated himself in the armchair next to the brightly decorated Christmas tree in the living room and cradled his coffee cup in his hands. “Smells good out here too,” said Rose. She sat up on the couch and pulled the comforter she had been napping under up to her chin. The fire in the fireplace crackled and a spark shot out against the metal screen. The smell of woodsmoke mixed with that of the roasting turkey from the kitchen. “The fact is, it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas,” she said. Andrew reached out and touched an ornament on the tree, a glass reindeer with a bright red nose. “I remember when we got this one,” he said. “Me too,” said Rose. “It was that time we went to the North Pole and had the tour of Santa’s workshop and they gave us a souvenir.” Andrew laughed. “Good times,” he said. “Or was it in Regina?” said Rose. “It’s hard to tell the difference between the North Pole and Regina,” said Andrew, “but I don’t think Santa’s ever had a workshop in Regina.” Rose stared at the tree for a minute. “There’s a lot of memories in that tree,” she said. She pointed at the topper, a pure-white handmade angel with delicate widespread wings and a peculiarly unhappy expression on its face. “Truro, Nova Scotia,” she said. “Remember? We went into that little shop and met that amazing old lady who made all those great Christmas decorations that were so detailed and perfect except every one had some kind of odd imperfection? I still think she must have done that on purpose. If it had been just our angry angel I’d think it was an accident but then there were the Wise Men whose gifts looked strangely like bottles of Scotch and the sleigh sculpture where Santa looked as if he’d polished off those bottles of Scotch before hitting the road.” “Those were no accidents,” said Andrew. “That old lady had a wicked sense of humour.” He stared up at the angel. “I wonder what she’s so perturbed about?” “She’s probably mad about the Wise Men bringing Scotch as gifts to a baby shower,” said Rose. “Everybody knows you should bring only gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby showers.” “I would have been very happy if a few Wise Men had showed up at one of our baby showers with a few bottles of Scotch,” said Andrew. “I would have been happy with gold,” said Rose. She studied the tree for another minute. “Some people,” she said “have themes for their decorations. Grant and Karen’s tree has only red and green lights and all the decorations have biblical significance. Like lambs or camels or shepherds or babies.” She paused. “Don’t tell Karen I said this,” she said, “but I think it’s super boring.” “Our tree would not be our tree,” said Andrew, “if it didn’t have a carved ornament of a mouse riding a reindeer with moose antlers and another one of Frosty the Snowman smoking a Cuban cigar.” “He isn’t smoking a Cuban cigar,” said Rose. “That’s just his nose.” “Really?” said Andrew. “I always thought he was smoking a cigar. Either way, Frosty would be out of his element on a Bible-themed Christmas tree, and I’m glad our tree is inclusive enough so he can feel as if he belongs.” There was a moment of silence. Andrew sipped his coffee and Rose continued to study the tree. “I like our tree,” she said. “It’s like our family. A bit helter-skelter. A little odd. Kind of messy, but bright and colourful.” “And it smells good,” said Andrew. “Speaking of which, I sure hope Jenn likes the perfume we got her,” said Rose. “Perfume is perfume,” said Andrew. “What’s not to like?” “That’s true and not true at the same time,” said Rose. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.” “I hope the kids get us some decent presents for a change,” said Andrew. “Contrary to what I might have said in the past it is actually possible to have too many pairs of pliers.” “I think they’re going to give us gift certificates to the spa,” said Rose. “Oh,” said Andrew. “I guess we’ll have to buy tickets to a Jets game ourselves then.” “I guess,” said Rose. “We could use the gift certificates from the kids in the afternoon and go to a Jets game in the evening. That would be fun.” There was another brief pause. “By the way,” said Rose, “sorry I got you pliers again this year. I didn’t know you already had enough.” “Oh no,” said Andrew, “the pliers are great. I just don’t need any more now.” “Oh good,” said Rose. “And thank you for the apron. I feel like I finally have enough aprons.” “Good,” said Andrew. “And you’re welcome.”

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