Food Waste Challenge winners revealed

As part of Canadian Innovation Week 2024, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food Lawrence MacAulay announced Clean Works Inc. and Genecis Bioindustries Inc. as the two grand prize winners of the Novel Technologies Streams for the Food Waste Reduction Challenge.

The Challenge, launched in November 2020 in partnership with Impact Canada, supports high-impact solutions to food waste in Canada. The Novel Technologies Streams focus on developing technological solutions to food waste. These solutions serve to extend the life of perishable food, or transform food waste into new products or value-added products.

Clean Works and Genecis Bioindustries will each receive a grand prize of up to $1 million to help accelerate the advancement of their proprietary solutions and support their prospective deployment in the Canadian market.

Clean Works is a St. Catharines, Ontario-based company that, with support from the Challenge, developed a solution that uses hydrogen peroxide, ozone and UV to control mildew and micro-organism growth in pre-harvest (greenhouses, field crops, grapevines) fruit and vegetables. This solution allows the shelf life of produce to be increased by up to 20%, which Clean Works estimates to prevent nearly 50 tonnes of food waste annually for grapes and spinach alone in Canada. 

“Both food waste and food scarcity are increasing in Canada and globally which highlights the important of strengthening our food systems,” said Denise VanderVeen, director of business development, Clean Works Inc.

“The support through the Food Waste Reduction Challenge and the funding provided by AAFC positions Clean Works and Canada as a world leader in food safety and food waste reduction technology. With this support, Clean Works can bring products to market that provide sustainable solutions to battle plant disease and food born illness while reducing chemical use, ensuring safety of our pollinators, and increasing the bottom line for our farmers.”

Genecis Bioindustries is a Toronto-based company that, with support from the Challenge, developed a specialized bacteria that transforms food waste into compostable bioplastics. Over the last three years, the company has diverted over 2.1 tonnes of food waste from the landfill, allowing them to produce around 5,000 tonnes of environmentally-friendly bioplastic at their Toronto facility each year. 

“Thanks to the support of AAFC, Genecis is poised to make significant advancements in the global commercialization of Canadian-made biotechnology,” said Luna Yu, CEO, Genecis Bioindustries Inc.

“This prize money will enhance our technological capabilities and expand our operational scope to accelerate the conversion of waste into high-value bioproducts. We believe that our participation in the Food Waste Reduction Challenge will enable Canadians to live healthier and more sustainable lives and inspire the next generation of innovators.”

The Food Waste Reduction Challenge is part of the first-ever Food Policy for Canada, which serves as a roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system in Canada.

The second round of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge attracted 238 applications from innovators across Canada and around the world, which led to 18 semi-finalists, and ultimately six finalists chosen across Canada who brought forward diverse and innovative technologies that can, for example, be used to prevent spoilage of pre-harvest crops, extend the shelf life of food, and transform food waste into compostable bioplastics.

An External Review Committee, composed of subject matter experts from a diverse range of backgrounds, played an important role in reviewing solutions and recommending winners at each stage of the Challenge.

Entries under the Food Waste Reduction Challenge’s Novel Technologies Streams were evaluated against established criteria, including potential volume of food waste reduction, technology effectiveness, level of innovation and scalability as well as environmental and economic benefits.