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Soil Health & Nutrient Management Challenge

The Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) is seeking innovative solutions that improve farmers’ ability to implement better nutrient management while improving soil health.

Completed

Innovation Challenge

Soil Health & Nutrient Management

View the Winners 

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The Opportunity

Healthy, nutrient-dense soil means higher crop yields, and increased profitability for farmers. Yet the average field crop operation faces soil health and nutrient challenges, including:

  • Nitrogen loss through leaching, runoff, and volatilization
  • Skilled labour shortages
  • Unreliable fertilizer application advice

The Soil Health and Nutrient Management challenge seeks innovative solutions to mitigate these challenges for farmers by:

  • Improving the rate, timing, and placement of fertilizers
  • Improving soil structure and water holding capacity
  • Reducing erosion

The Partner

As a collective of perceptive, innovative, and resourceful farmers, IFAO has been promoting soil health in Ontario agriculture for over 30 years. They are focused on environmental and financial sustainability, supporting innovations in agricultural through connection and collaboration with farmers.

IFAO facilitates idea exchanges, and collaborates to test and develop innovation to support the betterment of Ontario’s agricultural sector.

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Challenge Background & Barriers to Adoption

Ontario farmers have identified the following barriers to adoption. Successful solutions should overcome these critical barriers to adoption for soil health and 4R nutrient stewardship practices:

1

Water Budgets

Successful proposals will have strong methods for managing the use of their solutions with varying water budgets.

2

Profitability

Profitability in the year that a technology or product is used is key. Applicants should consider how their solution might fit into existing networks of cooperative management or custom operations.

3

Soil Health Assessments

Soil health assessments need to be transparent, actionable, and comparable. The OMAFRA Soil Health Assessment Protocol is the preferred means of assessing changes in soil health. A minimum three year commitment is required to properly determine changes in soil health.

4

Skilled Labour Shortages

There is a significant skilled labour shortage in agriculture. Skills training and simplicity of solutions is key to successful adoption.

5

Weather Uncertainties

Information must be available on the effectiveness of a product under the wide variety of weather conditions. Predicting rainfall is a significant challenge directly affecting how accurate and economical farmers can be with their nitrogen placement.

6

On-Farm Trials

Farmers will not readily adopt technologies or solutions that come out of controlled trials and greenhouse studies. Solutions must come from on-farm trials.

7

Farmer-to-Farmer Translation

The strongest solutions will empower farmers to share their knowledge with their peers through education and outreach events.

8

Nutrient Management Plans

Nutrient management plans are not required of field crop farmers in Ontario. Solutions requiring a nutrient management plan must be prepared to support farmers through a new and often daunting process.

9

Fertilizer Consultation Resources

Farmers appreciate independent information on fertilizer rates and applications in order to trust that they are applying the most economical rate.

What success looks like:

A successful solution must be scaleable for the average field crop operation in Ontario (1000 acres), running three+ active pilot projects over a minimum three year period. The solution should:

  1. Be profitable for the average field crop farmer in Ontario in the first year, at relatively low implementation costs
  2. Improve nutrient management and soil health simultaneously
  3. Fit easily into existing farm operations with little skill improvements required
  4. Address weather uncertainties either directly through predictive technology or indirectly through technology use methodology, taking various water budgets into account

Challenge Timeline

November 2, 2022

Challenge Opens

November 17, 2022

Webinar

January 11, 2023

Application Deadline

Week of February 6, 2023 

Finalists Notified

February 27 - March 2, 2023

Finalist Pitch Presentations

Week of March 13, 2023

Results Announcement


Prizes & Eligibility

Successful solutions are eligible for:

  • Three year, on-farm pilot projects with across three+ Ontario farms (averaging 1000 acres in production, on field trials between five acres and 100 acres) on various soil types.
  • Up to $20,000/year, to a maximum of $60,000 over three years. 1:1 investment or in-kind match from winner(s) is encouraged but not required

VIew the Winners

Eligible solutions must be TRL 6-9 and meet the following criteria:

  • Be applicable to a Canadian agriculture context
  • Demonstrate improvement in nutrient management and soil health

This Challenge is presented with support from the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, and founding agriNEXT partners Farm Credit Canada and Natural Products Canada.

Farm Credit Canada (FCC)‘s funding support for innovative technology and sustainable agriculture, in combination with Foresight’s proven accelerator model, are the keys to unlocking a green and resilient agricultural future for all Canadians. With the support of FCC, we are expanding our support for the agritech and agrifood innovation community and industry in Canada, with the launch of agriNEXT events and initiatives, and venture training courses.

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