The Canadian Food Innovation Network this week announced an investment of more than $3 million into five projects, including one from the Vancouver area.
The Food Innovation Challenge is a funding opportunity for Canadian food industry collaborators who want to spearhead transformative improvements that will propel the food sector forward and generate economic impact. It is supported by the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund.
In this instance, the Food Innovation Challenge prioritizes projects focused on smart product and process development, food ecosystem sustainability, and agile and safe supply chains.
“By investing in breakthrough and transformative innovation, CFIN stimulates collaboration across the food sector and enables high-potential Canadian food innovators to advance past technical hurdles that create barriers to commercialization,” explains Joseph Lake, CEO of CFIN. “This first round of investment programming will help Canadian players in the food sector compete and lead on the global stage.”
The Network also offers an Innovation Booster which provides flexible support to Small and Medium Enterprises as they address food innovation challenges or technical hurdles that have created barriers to achieving commercialization goals.
“By investing in collaborative and innovative projects, the network is helping Canada to remain a global leader in sustainable food production,” noted The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “Through CFIN’s inaugural Food Innovation Challenge and Innovation Booster competitions, we are building a stronger and more sustainable food sector that will help feed Canadians now and into the future.”
The funding recipients from this inaugural funding round include two from Quebec, two from Ontario, and one from BC. Based out of Surrey, Canadian Pacifico Seaweeds will receive $100,000 to scale up the extraction, activation and utilization of vitamin B12 and other water-soluble functional compounds found in Pacific seaweeds.
““The support from CFIN has allowed us to jump-start the commercialization process of our Ph.D. study findings, allowing us to deliver our unique solution in a meaningful way,” said founder Majid Hajibeigy, who studied at the University of British Columbia before launching his venture.
“Too often, fantastic findings are simply studies filed away; our mission is to apply the science and bring it to life on a large scale,” he added.
The Canadian startup slightly pivoted its business model during the COVID-19 Pandemic, utilizing rapidly growing kelp from the ocean as a replacement for higher-carbon ingredients, such as glycerin in a hand sanitizer dubbed Kelping Hands.
“The product is good for the planet because it is filtering carbon out of the ocean and it is reducing the carbon that we are putting out,” Hajibeigy told The Weather Network in 2020. “On top of that it is all natural and provides vitamin E and antibacterial properties from the seaweed itself.”
CPS says that the Pacific Northwest is a hotspot for seaweed, which has many applications, including in “cosmetics, supplements, food, fertilizer, agri-feed, [and] construction material,” according to Hajibeigy.
However, to remain truly sustainable, CPS must avoid extracting endangered types of kelp and also contribute seaweed back to the ocean.
“We have set up farms to add seaweed to the ocean,” Hajibeigy affirmed. “We also lower our impact on the ocean by spreading our harvest around.”
The seasonal timing of the harvest is also considered, Hajibeigy noted.
The Food Innovation Challenge has launched its second call for proposals, focusing on digitization and digitalization solutions that create safer, more secure, and more agile food supply chains with letters of intent being accepted through July 7.