After nine months of planning involving more than 150 community partners, the City of Guelph and County of Wellington have submitted their Smart Cities Challenge application to Infrastructure Canada. Key partners celebrated the submission yesterday, followed by a presentation to Guelph City Council.

Community partners celebrated the Smart Cities Challenge application on March 25, 2019.

The community will hear May 14 if the proposal will be awarded one of two $10 million prizes to create Canada’s first circular food economy.

“Guelph and Wellington have always been a leading centre for agriculture and agri-innovation. We have some of the best brains in the country when it comes to food. You came together to tackle some fundamental issues: how can everyone access enough nutritious food? How can we design a system so that nothing is wasted? How can we leave the smallest possible footprint on our environment?”

Mayor Cam Guthrie said as he greeted more than 70 guests at City Hall on March 25.

Presently, about one-third of our edible food is thrown away while up to 17 per cent of families in our community are identified as food insecure, and the cost of nutritious food has increased 27 per cent in the past eight years. The annual environmental impact of food production and food waste in landfill has been estimated at 193 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Through community collaborations and the use of data, technology and the expertise in the region, Our Food Future will allow Guelph-Wellington to move from the current “take-make-dispose” system to Canada’s first circular food economy, a sustainable and thriving food system with three bold goals:

  • 50 per cent increase in access to affordable, nutritious food;
  • 50 new circular food business and collaboration opportunities; and
  • 50 per cent increase in economic revenues by reducing or transforming food waste.

The idea was first presented to Infrastructure Canada in April 2018, and Guelph-Wellington was announced as a finalist on June 1. The partners received $250,000 to further develop the strategy and finalist submission. County and City food leaders engaged with members of their communities’ agri-food, business and social sectors, and members of the public in order to identify challenges and opportunities.

The proposal identifies nine priorities the community will tackle to move the work forward:

  1. Asset and behaviour mapping, a data analysis project to understand current food assets and gaps in local communities;
  2. Work with local agencies and groups to develop a Food Security & Health Action Plan;
  3. Launch a Circular Food Economy Lab to nurture ideas that will reinvent food systems and solve food problems;
  4. Establish an Impact Fund to support innovative ideas that address food issues;
  5. Leverage community experts and educators to provide public learning labs, food innovation education and training;
  6. Provide business tools and services to help food and beverage organizations and businesses increase efficiencies and minimize food waste;
  7. Continue a public awareness campaign to educate Guelph-Wellington residents on the food industry, the real cost of food waste and a circular food economy;
  8. Explore adding a “social currency” to current carbon credit sales that could be used to support a green local economy;
  9. Use data collected from Guelph’s technology-enabled residential waste carts to determine how food byproducts can be better used.

In addition to a possible $10 million prize from Infrastructure Canada, organizers have identified in-kind opportunities and additional funding to reach a total $16.8 million budget for these projects.

This work is already attracting international attention. In January, UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a global expert in developing circular economies, profiled Guelph-Wellington as one of four focus cities; authorities in Queensland, Australia are inquiring about the initiative; earlier this month project leaders were invited to share highlights at the Global Food Summit in Munich, Germany and are invited to share insights at the United Nations Environment Great Lakes Circular Economy Forum in June.

Closer to home, the collaboration is generating conversations and food-focused programming through libraries, schools, restaurants and community wellbeing organizations such as the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph, as well as sparking new business ideas and investments amongst local businesses and food agencies.

Media contacts

Barbara Swartzentruber
Executive Director, Strategy, Innovation and Intergovernmental Services
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3066

Jana Burns
Director of Economic Development
County of Wellington
519-837-2600 extension 2525