I hope this finds you in good health and enjoying the warmer weather. I’ve missed our personal connections but find myself more clearly being able to look forward to the day - soon now - when we can come together in person.
Not that our circumstances have slowed us down: if anything, they have strengthened our resolve to drive the Our Food Future goals forward. The pandemic has underscored the urgency of our work while at the same time it has helped fuel great levels of collaboration and creativity.
Here is a highlight on some of those developments.
Growing the circular economy with COIL
It has been just a couple of weeks since we launched the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) and the buzz is building. There is clearly a growing interest in this work and Guelph-Wellington is at the front of the line to be Canada’s test bed and go-to resource for circular economy innovation.
COIL will expand our mandate beyond food to include environment-based businesses and projects, and this new funding from FedDev Ontario also means that we will work with organizations across southern Ontario and beyond. Our team is already hard at work building our Circular Economy ecosystem and pulling together the framework for our first cohort of acceleration projects, innovation challenges and demonstration projects.
What can you do now? Please spread the word about COIL. Consider the groups, businesses and individuals in your network that will benefit from participating. Connect socially responsible investors to the Harve$t Impact fund so that we can strengthen our ability to build a sustained community-based lending facility. The social return on investment will be exceptional – of that, I’m sure.
ReSource Exchange creates value from waste
One person’s trash is another’s treasure, as the saying goes. This is especially true in the food industry. When producers or processors have unavoidable food waste or by-products, they know it can serve another purpose – they just need a helping hand to find the right partner to continue pulling value from that resource.
Enter the ReSource Exchange Marketplace. ReSource Exchange is a business-to-business virtual marketplace connecting organizations that have food waste and by-products with those that will find use for them. Businesses can potentially reduce costs, introduce new income streams, and demonstrate their commitment to circular practices and environmental responsibility. In addition to building new cross-industry collaborations, over time we’ll be able to better understand the types of by-products that are accessible across our region and alternative uses that can support new jobs and growth.
Initial response has been positive, and the Exchange will officially launch later this month, but community members are welcome to sign up now. Please spread the word about this great new platform.
The circular economy digital passport is now available
Traveling is always made easier with a passport and that includes moving around our expanding circular economy ecosystem of resources, mentors, opportunities, researchers, connections and case studies.
Our colleagues at Innovation Guelph who run the CFE iHub have made it easier to navigate all of the great programs with the Digital Passport. The passport helps participating businesses develop the most comprehensive circular systems possible by inviting them to stamp the various Our Food Future programs and activities they access during their journey. CFE iHub Connectors will work closely with participating to help them access programs and resources that meet their specific needs. It even provides businesses with digital stamps they can post on social channels to publicize their commitment to the circular economy.
Food System Resiliency Table community meetings
To assist post-pandemic economic recovery efforts, Our Food Future has convened an advisory committee to lay some of the groundwork for a Food System Resiliency Table. This diverse group of stakeholders from the food, farming and community benefit sectors will provide actionable, on-the-ground insights and support to guide the strength and sustainability of our regional food systems during the current crisis, and better equip our food system of the future.
We are looking for a diverse and full representation of the Guelph-Wellington communities and are currently welcoming interested individuals and organizations to join the Table. Next month, we will host two virtual town-hall style conversations to talk more about the mandate of this group, answer questions and launch an application process for community members to join.
The 45-minute meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, June 9 at 1 and 7 p.m.
Please encourage appropriate organizations to attend one of these discovery sessions.
A grocery service that delivers more than just groceries
Last week, The SEED launched an innovative pay-what-you-can grocery service that represents the power of the work we’re doing together to make a difference – and I can’t stop talking about it!
Groceries from The SEED invites people of all incomes to shop online and have their groceries delivered to their door. Customers who pay the regular retail price make it possible for individuals from low-income households to order groceries at a discount up to 75 per cent.
This is the first of its kind in Canada, and one of few examples in North America of this type of sustainable model that sees the community helping fund its own food security needs. It’s a terrific example of circular thinking in action: grocery dollars circle back to help someone else.
This is also an outstanding example of what can happen when a community invests in innovative demonstration projects that have the potential to drive significant change, not on in Guelph-Wellington but across the country.
Improving food rescue and food waste recovery
Our Food Future is participating in an innovative pilot with the Circular Innovation Council that will explore how we can improve management and recovery of food and food waste in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector.
The pilot aims to improve the collection of edible food for rescue, and source separated organics and packaged foods for de-packaging and/or composting through a regional service system. The pilot is also testing a pre-competitive co-operative financial model where costs are shared by all users through a buying consortium.
The project is currently seeking stakeholders in private, public, and not-for-profit sectors that support the advancement of the circular economy and are prepared to embrace innovation and collaboration to support economic, environmental, and social outcomes.
What are people tossing in their green carts in Guelph?
For municipalities, current waste stream audits are a manual process and therefore costly. A pilot project this summer will automate the process and give us a better understanding of the food we throw away in Guelph.
Kitchener-based Eagle Vision Systems Inc in collaboration with University of Guelph’s Intelligent Control and Estimation (ICE) Lab will be using innovative technologies on Guelph waste collection vehicles to measure avoidable and unavoidable food waste collected through the City’s green cart program. With overall volumes of organic waste up by about six per cent in Guelph over the past year as people eat more at home, this is an ideal time to capture that data. The average family in Guelph generates almost 6.5 lbs of avoidable food waste every week, according to the Guelph Food Waste project.
As we begin to put a framework together for a far-reaching Reimagine Food campaign this is the kind of data that will help bring precision to our messaging to residents. This information will also offer more clarity about contaminants that cause problems in the organic waste stream so that focused mitigations can be taken.
Reimagining the Guelph Farmer’s Market
With its storied 200-year history, Guelph Farmer’s Market is our oldest community hub; a place to shop, connect with local farmers, where neighbours wave and friends catch-up.
Presently, the space has great potential to be a thriving food centre – not just on Saturdays, as now, but every day of the week. The City is looking for new or existing organizations or collaborations to provide ideas for the Market’s long term activation and success.
Our Food Future is helping the food community respond to the EOI. The Guelph Smart Cities Office team is available to support all interested stakeholders to develop and build out innovative ideas and proposals, create new food community connections, and support new collaborations.
Our page on Our Food Future’s Kitchen Table is the starting point for these discussions.
Who would you like to hear from on our podcast?
A highlight of this project for me over the past couple of years has been the stimulating conversations with smart people about the work we’re doing together. Translating that into a monthly podcast seemed a logical step and In Conversation with Our Food Future kicked off in February.
I’m looking forward to booking guests from the Guelph-Wellington region and far beyond as we explore the many topics that are related to the creation of Canada's first circular food economy, and circular principles in general. Our goal is to cover a range of themes that include food security, repurposing waste, circular business principles, collaboration, and the power of data to help solve big problems – to name a few ideas.
I’d like your input as we continue this series. What are some of the topics you’d like to hear about on the podcast? Do you have suggestions for guests? Please email me with your ideas.
Thank you for your continuing support. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a moment of gratitude for the great work that is happening here, and for the passion and persistence of everyone involved.
Enjoy the beautiful spring weather.
Smart Cities Office