agriNEXT Challenges

Sustainable Agtech for Profitability: IFAO Challenge

Revolutionize Ontario's field crop farming. Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) is seeking innovative agtech solutions that improve decision-making and analysis of field crop farmers' operations, enabling optimized soil health, biodiversity, profitability, and overall sustainability management.


Innovation Challenge

Revolutionize Ontario's Field Crop Farming

Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) is seeking innovative agtech solutions that improve decision-making and analysis of field crop farmers' operations, enabling optimized soil health, biodiversity, profitability, and overall sustainability management. 

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Challenge Partner

As a collective of perceptive, innovative, and resourceful farmers, the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) has been promoting soil health in Ontario agriculture for over 30 years. They are focused on environmental and financial sustainability and supporting innovations in agriculture 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. Learn more at:

The Opportunity

Healthy soil means higher crop yields and increased farmer profitability. IFAO has partnered with Foresight Canada to run a challenge focused on agtech that enables field crop farmers to reduce labour, improve their nitrogen use efficiency, cover crops, or assess their farm management impacts on soil biology and/or biodiversity.

Winning innovators will receive: 

Third-party validation through an adoption and diffusion outcome prediction assessment 

A farmer feasibility and agronomic assessment 

Sponsorship and speaking engagement opportunities at the IFAO Innovative Farming Conference 2025

A feature in a communications campaign targeted directly to ‘first adopter’ farmers 

Challenge Background, Barriers to Adoption, and Considerations

The Challenge is designed to support Ontario-based farmers in adopting cleantech to address sustainability hurdles. Improved nitrogen-use efficiency is a key area of focus, given the mutualistic gains posed for both farmers' net profits and emissions reductions.

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The following barriers have been identified and will be overcome to be considered a successful solution:


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.

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.

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.

Farmer-to-Farmer Translation

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

Agronomic Assessments

Every farm across Ontario is unique and not every solution will fit into an operation with the same ease. An agronomic assessment can give farmers a greater appreciation for how a solution would fit into their farm.  

Skilled Labour Shortages

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

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.

Fertilizer Consultation Resources

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

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.

Evaluation & Eligibility

TRL 6 - 9

Sales efforts in Ontario must be underway

Preference will given to Ontario-based companies

Evaluation Criteria


Profitability for the average field crop farmer in Ontario


Level of simultaneous improvements in profitability and sustainability 

Ease of Adoptability

Ability to fit easily into existing farm operations with minimal skill improvements required

Weather Prediction

Ability to address weather uncertainties directly through predictive technology or indirectly through technology use methodology that considers various water budgets

Challenge Timeline

Canadian farmers provide reliable and diverse food directly to Canadians. Let's help them achieve higher yields!

Apply Now  Register for Webinar  

March 18, 2024

Competition open

April 18, 2024

Challenge Informational Webinar

May 17, 2024

Challenge Closes

June, 2024

Winners Announced

This challenge is run with support from our agriNEXT program, funded by founding partner Farm Credit Canada.