Pitch to be Canada’s first circular food economy could net region $10 million prize

Guelph, Ont., April 27, 2018– The City of Guelph and County of Wellington are vying to win the Government of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge with a proposal to create the first circular food economy in Canada.

The vision behind the proposal was unveiled today at an event where Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, Wellington County Warden Dennis Lever, and Chief Administrative Officers of the City and County thanked Guelph’s Member of Parliament, Lloyd Longfield, for his pledge to champion it on Parliament Hill.

Through the Smart Cities Challenge, communities were asked to identify a complex social problem, and propose a new way of solving it using innovation, data, and connected technology. The winning community will win up to $10 million to implement their idea.

Guelph and Wellington worked together on a joint proposal to tackle the fundamental challenge of ensuring healthy, affordable, sustainable food is available to everyone. They aim to replace the current linear “take-make-dispose” economic model with a circular model that strengthens connections between food producers and consumers; values waste as a resource; and creates new businesses and jobs.

“This vision represents a profound re-thinking of how food gets from the farm to the plate – and back again,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie. “Right now, we have a situation where about 30% of food produced never makes it to the plate, and where millions of people in the world are malnourished, while millions more struggle with obesity. The circular food economy is a more efficient, equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically sound model for our food system. It makes perfect sense for it to be pioneered in Guelph and Wellington.”

Added Warden Dennis Lever, “This proposal is the perfect marriage between the strengths of the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington. We have some of the best farmland and farming expertise in Ontario, and we’re also home to the world-renowned agri-food research of the University of Guelph. Our strength is agriculture and food, and through the Smart Cities Challenge, we hope to make a difference on a national and even global scale.”

The Guelph-Wellington Smart Cities application proposes three goals, each with related projects:

  • Cultivate nutritious food: Improve the accessibility of affordable, nutritious, local food by 50% by 2025. Strenghten connections between local food producers and consumers.
  • Value food waste as a resource: Design waste out of the food system, reduce the environmental impacts of food waste, and repurpose and re-use food waste that would otherwise have been disposed of;
  • Create new circular collaborations, businesses and jobs: Create 50 new businesses and collaborations among farmers, food industry leaders, policy makers, technology experts, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

Guelph’s Member of Parliament, Lloyd Longfield, welcomed the proposal. “I am very pleased that Guelph and Wellington decided to collaborate on this Smart Cities proposal, leveraging the outstanding strengths in agriculture and agri-food for which we are known. I look forward to championing this proposal on Parliament Hill in the weeks to come,” said MP Longfield.

Dozens of local business, academic, not-for-profit and civic organizations participated in the creation of the Guelph-Wellington proposal. Guelph’s CAO Derrick Thomson applauded these organizations for their participation. “This proposal was shaped by a wide range of local leaders and perspectives – from community benefit organizations working to address food insecurity, to business leaders from our thriving agri-tech sector. Because of that collaboration, our proposal reflects a full range of economic, environmental, and social benefits that a circular food economy will bring,” said Thomson.

Guelph and Wellington are collaborating with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a world renowned circular economy think tank, on their international Cities and the Circular Economy for Food project.

More information about the proposal can be found on haveyoursay.guelph.ca/smart-cities. The full Guelph-Wellington Smart Cities Challenge application will be posted online in the coming weeks, after Infrastructure Canada has completed its eligibility review.

Media contact

Cathy Kennedy
Manager of Policy and Intergovernmental Relations
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2255