Judging panel for Homegrown Innovation Challenge revealed

Judging panel for Homegrown Innovation Challenge revealed
Apr 05, 2022

Canada’s Dominic Barton will chair the international panel

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Canadian ag innovators now know who they’ll need to impress on the way to receiving the grand prize in a six-year industry challenge.

The Weston Family Foundation revealed the members of the expert judging panel for the $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge it announced in February.

Dominic Barton, Canada’s former ambassador to China, and chair of the Advisory Council on Economic Growth, which identified Canadian ag as a sector for substantial growth and improvement, will chair the competition’s judging panel.

The other members of the international panel are:

  • Dr. David Babson, a program director with the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
  • Dr. Achim Dobermann, a German soil scientist and chief scientist of the International Fertilizer Association.
  • Dr. Hicham Fatnassi, senior horticulture scientist at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Dr. Jennifer Grenz, an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s department of forest resources management.
  • Dr. Molly Jahn, founding principal of the Jahn Research Group and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Sarai Kemp, an agrifood and technology investment professional from Israel.

"Collectively, the members of our panel offer a breadth of experience in food systems innovation and will be instrumental in helping teams conceptualize and bring sustainable, locally-grown food production solutions to market," Emma Adamo, chair of the Weston Family Foundation, said in a statement. "We're grateful to each member for their time and commitment to ensure top innovations are unearthed throughout the Challenge."

The Weston Family Foundation launched the challenge to help address Canada’s dependency on imported fruits and vegetables.

Currently, Canada imports about 80 per cent of its fresh fruit and vegetables.

In 2020, Canada imported about $6.5 billion of fruit alone, data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says.

The contest has multiple deadlines over the duration of the challenge.

The first deadline is May 3 at noon ET for innovators to apply for a Spark Award.

A Spark Award is a $50,000 grant to help with concept development a team building.

The final winner(s) of the competition will be announced in spring of 2028.

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