Innovation Guelph’s Circular Food Economy iHub held a problem surfacing event on December 14th, 2020. The purpose of the event was to determine the barriers that food system businesses experience to collaborating and sharing resources with other businesses.  The event was designed to unpack these barriers and identify possible opportunities to establish or enhance collaborations that support the region's circular food economy. These ‘’circular food collaborations’’ are interactions between two or more individuals, businesses, and organizations that contribute to the circular food economy through a new business model, technology, product, or service. 

The three main problems that were identified by the groups were:

1. Understanding the benefits to collaboration

2. Community awareness and

3. Implementation gaps

Participants expressed that the main barrier to establishing circular food collaborations is determining the value proposition for both parties.  They identified that collaborations often identify the bigger picture without offering tangible value, making it difficult to entice a partner.

The next problem, community awareness, is important not only for the community to understand, but other businesses as well. The price of products and services from circular businesses can sometimes be higher based on fair/living wages, regionally sourced products, and eco-friendly practices. It is important that there is an increase in education surrounding this topic so more people can make educated purchases and decisions.

Implementation gaps are another issue that can affect access to shared resources. COVID-19 restrictions have made it increasingly difficult to initiate collaborations due to staffing, distancing, and sanitation requirements.

From this, the groups identified three main potential solutions:

1. An online database that enables businesses to share resources and/or connections.

2. Educational opportunities for businesses to learn how to implement and optimize resource sharing opportunities.

3. Small grants, mentorship, and case studies to support circular food collaborations.

For a description of the solutions, check out the suggestions in the comments and “like” your favourite.

We want to hear from you!

What solutions would enable food system businesses to collaborate? What barriers would businesses need to address to realize these solutions?

Post your ideas in the comment section below!

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