Canada’s diverse agriculture and agri-food industry contributes over $110 billion annually to the GDP. As agribusinesses throughout this essential sector continue to produce and transform commodities to keep shelves stocked and feed Canadians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, all are experiencing impacts that demand the re-evaluation of operational processes and growth plans.
Fortunately, many government funding programs are available to help agri-businesses achieve their commercial objectives and thrive during the pandemic recovery period and beyond.
Whether your business is focusing on the now by transitioning to new operational strategies or is exploring larger growth projects to set the stage for future success, Canada’s federal and provincial governments offer a wide selection of funding programs.
Below, we have summarized some of the most popular programs accessed under four categories: capital investment, research and development, hiring and training, and business/market expansion. To learn about additional, coronavirus-related funding and support programs available, please visit the Mentor Works COVID-19 relief page.
Capital Investment Programs
Business Scale-up and Productivity (BSP)
Administered by FedDev Ontario, the BSP program helps businesses adopt/adapt innovative technologies that support productivity, grow southern Ontario operations, and increase exports to global markets.
- Amount: Applicants may receive a repayable contribution (no-interest loan) of up to 35% of eligible project expenses to a maximum of $500,000 to $10M.
- Eligibility: Must maintain profitable operations in southern Ontario for 2+ years, have ≥5 employees, and be an incorporated business or Indigenous organization.
- Project Examples: Commercializing/producing new innovative products, processes, or services; acquiring, adopting, or adapting innovative technologies; and late-stage technology development to support new markets and/or industrial applications.
Community Economic Development and Diversification (CEDD)
Another program available via FedDev Ontario, the CEDD program supports projects committed to improving productivity, capacity, and competitiveness of businesses to increase employment and growth opportunities, as well as enhancing the resilience of communities.
- Amount: Incorporated, for-profit businesses may receive a repayable contribution (no-interest loan) from $250,000 up to $5M per project.
- Eligibility: Legally incorporated businesses, including Indigenous-owned businesses, with operations in rural areas of eastern and western
- Project Examples: Adoption of new equipment; market development, diversification, and expansion; and facility improvement or expansion to support greater economic diversification.
CME Technology Assessment Program (CME TAP)
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) launched a new program in April called the Technology Assessment Program. This program aims to innovate Canadian manufacturing and exporting businesses by bringing in a third-party expert to identify productivity issues, perform process analysis, and make equipment recommendations.
- Amount: Covers 100% of eligible project costs, to a maximum of $25,000.
- Eligibility: The full list of eligibility requirements has not yet been outlined, but businesses can pre-register for the technology assessment by having their organization’s signing officer submit an application.
- Project Examples: Analyzing what machines and equipment should be replaced, and providing recommendations on what equipment will improve performance.
Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP): Ontario Program
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) is a five-year initiative by the federal and provincial governments to support Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. In Ontario, the Partnership offers cost-share funding for key priority areas to support producers, processors, and other businesses across the agricultural value chain. These programs include:
- NEW Agri-food Open for eBusiness: Supports agriculture, agri-food, and agri-products companies in capturing online e-business opportunities under two streams:
- Bring Your Business Online – Up to $5,000 grant to help eligible applicants establish an online presence.
- Develop Online Business Opportunities – Up to $75,000 in cost-share funding to help eligible applicants develop e-business opportunities on a larger scale.
Up to $2.5M in total program funding will be administered through OMAFRA; this program has received a strong response since its April 2020 launch.
- Cost-Share Funding for Producers: Funds 25-50% of eligible costs (up to $100,000) for projects across a broad range of categories including Food Safety, Productivity, and Environmental Stewardship. Applicants must have a valid FBRN and file business and/or farm income/loss taxes in ON.
- Cost-Share Funding for Processors: Funds 25-50% of eligible costs (up to $200,000) for projects across a broad range of categories. Project examples include developing new products or processes, implementing ERP systems, and improving labour productivity. Applicants must be ON-based transformers of agricultural commodities, food, beverage, or agri-based bio-products with <200 employees.
- Place to Grow: Agri-Food Innovation Initiative: Supports collaborative projects that lead to large-scale benefits across Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry through two streams, Sector Funding (up to $100,000-$400,000) and Strategic Solutions (up to $250,000-$1M). Projects can be led by any type of applicant (including non-profits and industry associations) but should be collaborative in nature and combine two or more entities.
Research & Development Programs
NGen Supercluster Funding
Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), one of Canada’s five innovation superclusters, administers $192M in federal funding for collaborative technology development and application projects among member organizations (membership is free) under several streams:
- NGen Capital Projects funds industry-led collaborations that strengthen the competitiveness of Canada’s manufacturing sector by driving more innovation and investment in advanced manufacturing.
- Amount: Up to 44.4% of eligible project expenses for a maximum grant value of $8.88M.
- Eligibility: Projects require a minimum of three industry, academic, and/or research partners, at least one of which must be an SME. Project costs should be between $1M-$20M and projects must deliver significant commercial benefits and jobs.
- Project Examples: Adapting to Industry 4.0; improving existing manufacturing or R&D processes; collaborative technology development resulting in commercialization and/or IP.
- NGen Capacity Building Projects supports Canadian SMEs by de-risking their implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies that will improve competitiveness and grow customer sales. This stream funds three specific types of projects:
- Feasibility Studies: Funds partnering organizations (including at least one SME) undertaking advanced manufacturing, business planning, and technology implementation strategies such as risk assessments, market studies, and/or economic analyses. Project costs should be $50,000-$200,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.
- Cluster Development: Supports new or existing clusters (minimum five SMEs) that are taking on a transformative initiative in advanced manufacturing such as commercialization, IP development, and/or training. Maximum project value is $150,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.
- Pilot Projects: Funds partnerships of at least two SMEs undertaking activities to prove out technology implementation projects such as manufacturing process development, risk mitigation planning, and business case development. Project costs should be $100,000-$500,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriInnovate Program provides repayable contributions (loans) for projects that speed the commercialization, adoption, or demonstration of innovative products, technologies, processes, or services that benefit agri-sector competitiveness and sustainability.
- Amount: Up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum $10M in repayable funding, which may be repaid over a 10-year period following project completion.
- Eligibility: For-profit businesses that are incorporated in Canada and can provide for a minimum of 50% of project costs.
- Project Examples: Implementation of innovative (e.g. first-in-Canada, first-in-world) agri-processing equipment to commercialize new products.
Hiring & Training Programs
FedDev Ontario Training Program (FOTP)
The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) offsets the cost of workforce training and upskilling that supports innovation in manufacturing operations to drive greater competitiveness and expansion into new markets.
- Amount: Up to 50% of training costs to a maximum grant value of $100,000; previously funded applicants may receive up to 25% of training costs to a maximum grant value of $50,000.
- Eligibility: Southern Ontario manufacturers with 10-1,000 employees who currently export (or will export as a result of training), have operated for at least three years, and can demonstrate solid financial footing.
- Project Examples: Training in new technology, new advanced equipment, new software (including ERP), and new manufacturing workflows; training to develop highly skilled personnel in any area that leads to innovation.
Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG)
The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) is an Ontario government funding program that offers training grants to employers. Through the program, companies may receive non-repayable funding from the government to purchase third-party business training programs, including training for in-demand skillsets.
- Amount: Grant up to 50% (>100 employees) or 83% (<100 employees) to offset up to $10,000 per trainee. Small businesses with new hires may receive up to 100% coverage to a maximum of $15,000 per trainee.
- Applicant Eligibility: For-profit and not-for-profit sector employers, First Nations, and organizations acting on behalf of employers may apply. They must be licensed to operate in Ontario and be applying for training that is delivered in Ontario and is related to a job that is in Ontario.
- Project Examples: Training topics are to relate to the trainee’s career or skill development. Eligible training programs include financial planning, leadership, project management, marketing, software and technology, and more.
Post-Secondary Co-op Hiring Grants – Open for Summer 2020
There are hiring grants available to provide a portion of a current post-secondary student’s wage while they complete a paid, full- or part-time co-op placement. The roles must be at companies within the bio-economy or for roles fulfilling a bio-economy job function, including work with a focus on medical devices, bio-energy, bio-industrial, and agri-biotech subjects. Funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Amount: Up to 50% to $5,000 or up to 70% to $7,000 if the student is a woman in STEM, has been in Canada for less than 5 years, identifies with a disability, or is a first-year student.
- Employer Eligibility: Canadian businesses can be in any industry operating within the bio-economy and only net new positions qualify. Those looking to fill placements from May-August 2020 may now apply.
- Candidate Focus: Must currently be enrolled in a post-secondary program. They are to be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or have refugee status. Must not be hired based on nepotism.
Business/Market Expansion Programs
Available to most established businesses looking to export, CanExport provides support for marketing and expansion activities involving new international markets. The program helps exporters improve their sales and brand exposure in international markets through marketing activities, packaging modifications, market research, and other initiatives.
- Amount: Canadian businesses may access up to 75% of costs associated with export marketing projects to a maximum $75,000 per application.
- Eligibility: 1-500 FTEs on payroll, $100,000-$100M in annual revenue, 1+ years incorporated with taxes filed, and project expenses must be at least $20,000. The applicant’s sales must be under $100,000 (or less than 10% of total sales) in the target export market over the previous 24 months.
- Project Examples: Marketing tools creation, IP protection, and market research.
The Canadian government funding landscape is continually in flux and the programs featured in this blog are by no means an exhaustive list of funding sources available to your agri-business.