Funding for Peterborough’s Innovation Cluster lauded during visit by Ontario’s agriculture minister

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Lisa Thompson toured the Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Sept. 1 in a visit billed as a step in a “burgeoning partnership to invigorate the agricultural sector through innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Thompson was joined on the tour at the Venture North building at 270 George St. N. in downtown Peterborough by Peterborough-Kawartha MPP David Smith.

Innovation Cluster officials say the meeting signals “an era of meaningful collaboration” between the ministry and the organization, according to a press release issued by the Peterborough-based non-profit organization.

The Innovation Cluster was recently approved for $73,750 in funding under the province’s Rural Economic Development program which is slated to begin in October.

The provincial funding will be used to launch a new program to support the hiring of a project co-ordinator, along with experts to train and advise entrepreneurs.

The funding will also be used to purchase software subscriptions for virtual platform programming, host project events and workshops, implement a marketing campaign and create opportunities to further nurture the growth of entrepreneurs through networking events.

The Rural Economic Development program is providing $4.8 million for more than 80 projects across Ontario aimed at diversifying rural economies, retaining skilled workers and creating jobs in local communities.

Smith praised the collaboration.

“The agri-food industry has been a key innovator in so many technologies that we take for granted in our everyday lives,” Smith said.

“Today’s announcement is another example of Minister Thompson’s recognition that good things grow in Ontario when we nurture those local entrepreneurs and give them the tools they need to collaborate and innovate.”

Thompson emphasized the provincial government’s commitment to the project.

“Our government values rural communities throughout the province, and this program provides municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profits with the funding they need for projects that contribute to the local economic vitality,” Thompson said.

“The (RED) program is another example of how our government is ensuring small towns and communities across Ontario continue to share in the province’s growth and economic prosperity.”

Last week’s visit included a guided tour of the Innovation Cluster facilities in a bid to showcase the innovative ecosystem that supports budding agricultural startups, including Metaboly — an agricultural startup — and the Commoner Cider Co.

Thompson’s tour was arranged to show off the “unique capabilities” offered by the Innovation Cluster, according to the release.

“It provided a first-hand look at the resources and environment that enable startups to take innovative steps in the agricultural sector,” the release states.

“The day also showcased some of ICPK’s standout startups, further emphasizing the Cluster’s ability to help startups reach the next level in their business.”

Daniel Palberg, CEO and co-founder of Metaboly said, “joining the ICPK community has been transformative” for the startup.

“Their ecosystem provides us rapid access to a network of seasoned professionals and industry-specific expertise. This accelerates our business development strategy, freeing up invaluable time to zero in on our core research objectives,” noted Palberg.

“Additionally, through ICPK, we’ve established partnerships with other startups, government agencies, and vendors, which has been vital in driving our innovation forward. The impact is not just on us; the collaborative environment at ICPK amplifies everyone’s effectiveness in achieving their goals.”

Nicole Stephenson, interim chief executive officer of the Innovation Cluster, said the funding and increased collaboration will go a long way.

“This visit serves as a remarkable platform to demonstrate how startups incubated at ICPK will make significant contributions to the Peterborough region and the agricultural sector at large,” Stephenson said.

Since 2019, more than 380 projects have received more than $21.6 million through the RED program across Ontario.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner