Ontario’s agri-food sector is hungry for growth

Key funding initiatives poised to help the sector recover and thrive

The agri-food sector is a driving force behind Ontario’s economic viability. More than 860,000 jobs and $47.3 billion each year are generated by the industry for the Ontario economy.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector has experienced the strain of needing to continue growing, processing and distributing its products amid safety issues, labour shortages and supply chain struggles.

Fundingportal’s AI-driven data indicates that federal and provincial governments have awarded more than $14.5 million toward expansion, R&D and operations projects to Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector since the start of the year. However, there is more funding required to ensure that the sector continues to recover and thrive for the rest of the year and beyond.

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Major labour shortage anticipated for Ontario’s agriculture sector

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) estimates there will be a shortage of 123 thousand Canadian agricultural workers by 2029, with Ontario being hardest hit.

To mitigate this issue, the government has launched several programs that aim to improve conditions for the workforce while streamlining operations and increasing efficiencies.

In April 2021, a $25.5 million program was announced to increase the adoption of technological innovations within the agri-food sector. The program’s goal is to improve the health and safety of workers as well as enhancing efficiency and productivity for the agri-food sector.

The Ontario government also launched an agri-food labour strategy to help alleviate labour challenges and promote growth and innovation throughout the sector.

A total of $812,000 has been earmarked toward two projects that include:

  • $617,400 for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for Feeding Your Future: Connecting Ontario’s Agri-Food Workforce. This job matching concierge service will provide free virtual career fairs, webinar series and specialized training opportunities for the agricultural sector.
  • $195,000 for Food and Beverage Ontario. This funding will help the agri-food sector attract, train and retain labour, as well as innovate.

New funding announced for critical growth areas

This month, Ontario also announced an investment of $7 million toward green initiatives, livestock protection, and economic growth throughout the sector, including rural areas.

The Ontario government and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance are supporting this advanced agri-food research in collaboration with the University of Guelph. These projects include assessing resilience in the sector, enhancing water safety, pest management and disease control for crops, improving livestock health, and increasing knowledge, skills training, and the continued adoption of science throughout the sector.  

The Ontario agriculture and agri-food sector is continuing to recover from the effects of the pandemic.  However, funding programs supporting the industry’s future will be vital to developing the innovative technology, processes and labour strategies required for the sector to not only recover but be poised for the growth the Ontario economy is relying on.


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