As the holiday season approaches, I look forward to celebrating with family, friends, and good food after last year’s decidedly different Christmas. I am also grateful for the work of Our Food Future’s partners and programs to reduce the impacts of food insecurity in Guelph and Wellington County. My holiday plans include supporting this essential work.

The summer and fall have been very active for the Smart Cities Office. We’ve welcomed new team members, launched new pilots, and are excited to work with new businesses and collaborations. This newsletter offers just a few highlights.

It was terrific to participate in the virtual World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), hosted by the Government of Canada. The summary report offers five compelling circular economy actions for governments and communities.

Download the WCEF Summary Report

turning point

I also enjoyed joining the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on the Circular Economy in Canada, sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Today they released Turning Point, which richly explores the implications of advancing a circular economy in Canada. This is an important document to further our system-wide approach to circularity. I encourage you to read and share it in your networks.

Read Turning Point

ECCC is also organizing a public event regarding the report on December 3, 2021 at 1pm EDT. Registration for the noted event is not required. I look forward to seeing you there.

Click to Attend




Barbara Swartzentruber
Executive Director, Smart Cities Office

Embedding circularity in local government

Message from the CAO

caoAs I read the recent Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies, I am reminded of the immense ability of local government to drive change.
Thanks to our very own Guelph-Wellington’s Smart Cities initiatives and the extensive network of partners across the region, we’re seeing dozens of businesses, farms, social enterprises, and households adopt circular practices. We are piloting trials to reduce food waste and find new value in those by-products. Most critically, this work is addressing urgent social issues including food security and climate change. Early calculations suggest that already, enough greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented through this work to heat 1,500 homes for a year. We are making a difference.

These accomplishments align closely with the principles set out in Guelph’s Community Plan, a far-reaching mandate that was shaped by the community, is owned by the community and will be implemented collaboratively by the community – as we’re seeing with this Smart Cities work. It is also helping meet the goals of a key pillar of the Guelph Strategic Plan to ensure that we are Future Ready.

We know the principles of a circular economy can reach across local government and we are drawing on the expertise of this Office to guide master planning and municipal operations such as the current Understanding our Food Waste – Organics Stream Study that is using advanced technology and data capture to provide more clarity than we’ve ever had about household waste. This will help us focus on precise action to reduce waste and emissions, together with our community.

I can’t wait to see how the rest of this work unfolds.

Scott Stewart,
CAO, City of Guelph

COIL announces first program participants


Since its launch in April, the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) and its partners have developed and launched four business acceleration and innovation programs which opened invitations for submissions in the fall. This week, COIL announced 40 businesses, social enterprises, and research organizations are or will be confirmed by year-end as the first cohort of participants across the four programs.

Participating organizations include five start-ups in the Evolve Pre-Accelerator (closing end of November), 10 scale-ups with goals to grow their businesses to the point of being investor-ready through the Activate Accelerator, and another 21 organizations across five teams in the new Circulate CoLab, an innovation process that will see each team use $20,000 to prototype their circular idea over 12 weeks and compete for an additional $100,000 to scale their idea up. Finally, Provision Coalition will work with six companies that will move through the Re(Purpose) Incubator, a comprehensive food waste and value audit process. Participants range from large food processors to coalitions of small family farms.

Over the next several months, we will be telling the stories of the businesses participating in COIL so they can receive the support of this incredible community. Be sure to follow COIL’s new Twitter feed to stay up to date.

Intake for the second round of programs will start in March 2022.

Learn More

County to launch Experimental Acres regenerative agriculture pilot

farm pilot

Soil health is critical to every farm, and to the climate. The circular economy model strives to move away from over-applying petrochemical inputs, working instead towards precision application of necessary inputs, and incorporating other, natural plant and animal activities to build more resilient soils.

The Experimental Acres pilot program will work with farmers to explore regenerative strategies on one defined area of the farm, with funding to apply towards additional inputs and to protect against risk of income loss from a change in practice. The pilot will include sites which may accommodate both low-tech and high-tech soil assessments. For example, citizen scientists may help record soils on one site, and agronomist-run drones may assess soil on another site. These learnings will help guide future, wider reaching initiatives. An additional long-term goal of the pilot is to move towards readiness for the emerging carbon market.

Farm Pilot Hosts can Apply Here

Save this date!
Plan to attend the Wellington Soil Symposium on Friday, March 4, 2022 at GrandWay Elora. This full-day forum will include inspiring speakers, boots-on-the-ground panel discussions and delicious local food, as well as an in-depth look at supports for regenerative agriculture in Wellington County. Full details will be available soon.

Have you met Jonathan McNeice?


We’ve been getting to know the new Manager of Our Food Future, Jonathan McNeice. A former healthy communities planner and expert and self-professed geek about design thinking, Jonathan also comes to us with a lifelong background in the food sector, dating back to working in his family-run grocery store. “I’ll never forget the feeling of ice cream covering my forearms after a long day of scooping cones,” he laughs.

Read Jonathan's Story in Faces of Our Food Future

ICI Circular Food Recovery and Waste Diversion Pilot now underway


Earlier this month more than 50 organizations in Guelph and Wellington County started to look at their waste in a new way. They are participating in a unique national pilot designed to help industry better collect food waste and packaging for recycling, and edible food for rescue.
Circular Innovation Council, hosted by Our Food Future, is trialling the viability of a consolidated collection system for industrial, commercial, and institutional (including multi-residential) facilities to optimize organics recycling in geographic clusters. The three-month project will measure cost savings, GHG reductions, food waste and packaging diverted from disposal, edible food delivered to food rescue agencies, and new employment due to increased diversion activities. We look forward to sharing the results.

Learn More

circling back

The COIL ReSource Exchange Marketplace continues to gain members, currently at 85, with 22 listings of materials available or wanted and, most recently, boasts the first successful transaction between members. Continue to spread the word about this terrific resource for food businesses.

Earlier this fall, Groceries from The SEED expanded its delivery services into Centre Wellington and Guelph-Eramosa. With this social enterprise, for every full-paying grocery customer, up to three other customers can access food at prices that are accessible for them. And did you know they sell gift cards? What an ideal Secret Santa or holiday gift.

This week, Guelph City Council approved a motion for our colleagues at 10C to assume oversight of the Guelph Farmer’s Market following their response to an open call for ideas to manage the space. We’re excited to learn more about how 10C will animate the iconic market to strengthen Guelph and Wellington County’s reputation as a progressive food innovation region.