Agri-Tech Innovation Cost-Share Program


Recognizing the importance of keeping Ontario's agri-food sector strong through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agri-Tech Innovation cost-share program will support the modernization of workplaces, by funding projects to implement advanced or innovative technology (such as automation and robotics), that will enhance the protection of workers health and safety against COVID-19, lead to business efficiencies and productivity, and help build the sector's resilience.

Projects will focus on those businesses within the sector that are at the highest risk of potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission.

Funding is available through the following categories:

The Early Adopters category provides funding to businesses for implementation of Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology that can reduce the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission among agri-food workers, by shifting away from labour-intensive work practices or processes.

The Innovators category provides funding for larger scale projects that support innovators through collaborations between Agri-food businesses, commodity organizations and/or agri-food technology providers that want to work collaboratively to pilot or demonstrate technology innovations. These projects will in turn present significant innovation to the sector or to Ontario in mitigating potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission risks among agri-food workers, leading to the sector's increased efficiency and productivity.

Further details on the Innovators category will be coming soon.

Program Category Description - Early Adopters

Purpose of Program Category

Funding of projects to implement Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology that will reduce the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission among agri-food workers by shifting away from labour-intensive work practices or processes.

Target Audience

Farm or Processor businesses that involve intensive use of labour where workers operate in close proximity to one another and, that are ready to implement Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology in order to address the main risk factor of potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission among agri-food workers, by shifting away from labour intensive work practices or processes. See "Who Can Apply?" below for more information on eligibility.

Preference is given to projects in the following at-risk sectors:

  • Farm Businesses:
    • Greenhouse (e.g. edible horticulture, floriculture)
    • Field nursery
    • Horticulture Field Crops (e.g. asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, carrots, ginseng)
    • Tree Fruit and Tender Fruit (e.g. apples, plums, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes and apricots)
    • Mushrooms
  • Processor Businesses:
    • Federally Registered or Provincially licensed meat processing and meat product manufacturing plants
    • Bakeries and Tortilla manufacturing
    • Sugar and confectionary product manufacturing
    • Primary food processing for vegetable and fruit crops. (Primary food processing involves primary post harvest process including but not limited to: cleaning, cutting, packaging, storage and refrigeration of raw plant foods to ensure that they are not spoiled before they reach the consumer).
  • *Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology means semi or fully automated, robotic or digitized technology that would reduce the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure and transmission and replace/reduce labour intensive primary agri-food or manufacturing production steps or processes.
  • For greater certainty, upgrades to existing equipment models that do not advance the level of automation and reduce the necessity for workers to be in close proximity, will not be considered to be Advanced Automation or Manufacturing.

Who Can Apply?

In order to be eligible, an applicant must be either a farm or processing business as outlined below:

  1. An established Farm Business that is a legal entity and produces agricultural commodities in Ontario under a valid Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN), or an allowable exemption
  2. An established Processor Business that is a legal entity that handles agricultural commodities, food, beverage or agri-based products in Ontario. This includes primary food processing, i.e. businesses that manufacture products that cut, clean, package, store and refrigerate raw plant food.

Eligible Farm or Processor businesses must:

  • Be Adopting an Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology; and:
  • Be and remain in compliance with all Requirements of Law for the duration of the project
  • Have a valid and up-to-date Premises Identification (PID) Number for the business location where the project is to take place
  • Provide a Canada Revenue Agency Business Number as part of the application process, if applicable; and
  • Be capable of entering into a funding agreement with the Province of Ontario and meeting their obligations under it

Not Eligible to Apply

Without limitation, the following farm and processing businesses are not eligible for cost-share funding:

  • Restaurants and food services, including catering services
  • Retail food services or operations
  • Packaging material manufacturers
  • Food Premises as defined by the Health Promotion and Protection Act that are not Provincially Licensed or Federally registered
  • Pet food manufacturers
  • Cigarette manufacturers
  • Businesses that process household waste or household waste by-products

Eligible Projects

Projects that will lead to the adoption of Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology that support the following outcomes:

  • Allow businesses to shift away from labour-intensive work practices or processes to help prevent the exposure and transmission of COVID-19, and
  • Address at least one of the following labour-related project impacts:
    • Allow business to focus redeployment of workers to higher value-added activities
    • Reduce the ongoing labour shortage pressures in the sector
    • Attract more highly skilled labour to businesses within the sector
    • Increase the productivity

Examples of Eligible Projects:

The following are examples of projects that may be eligible for Farm business applicants:

  • Adoption and integration of an automated rack handling system and seeding machines in a greenhouse setting
  • Adoption and use of a fully automated optical grading system with visually guided robotics for the grading and sorting of vegetables replacing manual grading/sorting
  • Adoption of solar powered autonomous robotic vineyard pruning robots with optical/spectral guidance systems in place of manual pruning
  • Adoption of semi-autonomous or autonomous self-propelled transplanters replacing manual/mechanical processes where distancing employees is difficult

The following are examples of projects that may be eligible for Processor business applicants:

  • Installation and training staff on the use of a robotic deboning machine for whole chicken legs replacing labour intensive manual cutting and deboning stations
  • Adoption and use of a fully automated optical packing system with visually guided robotics for the sorting and packing of product replacing manual packing/sorting

Cost-Share Funding and Project Size:

  • 35% of eligible costs for eligible projects, up to a maximum of $100,000 per business
  • To be eligible for funding, projects must have a minimum total project value of $150,000.

How to Apply

  • The application and required documentation must be submitted by June 21, 2021 by 11:59 p.m. EST. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Required Documentation to be submitted with your completed application

  • Quote(s) detailing the costs of eligible technology or equipment and, if applicable, the software necessary for technology integration
  • Quote(s) or proposal(s) from third-party organizations or consultants, detailing services to be provided, and costs

Project Start and Completion Dates

An eligible project cannot start prior to the date that OMAFRA approves the project. This date will be communicated in an Approval Letter to a successful applicant after its application has been assessed. To be eligible for reimbursement, costs can only be incurred, invoiced and paid for on or after the start date set out in the Approval Letter and before the project completion date.

Projects must be implemented and completed no later November 30, 2022, and in accordance with all the other terms and conditions of the Contribution Agreement between the Province of Ontario and a successful applicant.

How often can I apply?

Applicants can only submit one application per business, per program category.

Application Assessment Process

Applications that meet eligibility criteria are assessed using merit assessment criteria. A merit-based application review process is used to allocate the funding that is available to projects that best meet merit assessment criteria. Only applications that best meet the merit assessment criteria will be approved.

Merit Assessment Criteria:

Applications will be assessed against the extent to which:

  • Project relates to an at-risk sector
  • Business needs for the project are demonstrated and quantified
  • All project components are directly linked to Adopting Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology
  • All project components are directly related to a shift away from labour-intensive work practices or processes to prevent the spread of COVID-19
    • Relevant business impacts are identified and quantified, such as but not limited to:
      • Reduced COVID-19 exposure and transmission risks
      • Reduced labour intensity
      • Increased productivity
  • The Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology is innovative (meaning it and technology similar in function, purpose or use, has been adopted by less than 20 per cent of the sector in Ontario to date), and substantiated by independent documentation (e.g. letter(s) from credible industry association or experts, academic sources or unbiased studies or market analysis)
  • Resources, experience and skills necessary to oversee and carry out the project are identified
  • The project workplan is clearly defined and aligns to project outcomes
  • The project budget is described in sufficient detail, is reasonable, and is in alignment with the project and substantiated by supporting documentation (e.g. quotes, proposals).

Eligible Activities and Expenditures

Eligible activities and expenditures are costs that are necessary for the implementation of the project. For greater clarity, eligible activities and expenditures are those set out below:

  • Equipment costs (including shipping and delivery costs) and installation or configuration costs required for Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology
    • Equipment must all be onsite and fully operational by the project completion date identified in the Contribution Agreement
  • One-time costs for rental of equipment required for installation of eligible equipment approved by OMAFRA.
  • Engineering or professional services for implementation of eligible equipment
    • Costs related to essential travel from out of province engineers or technicians necessary for the implementation of the eligible equipment, specifically meals and mileage (in accordance with the province's Travel, Meal and Hospitality Directive and in compliance with any exemptions from any federal, provincial or municipal COVID-19 related travel restrictions)
  • Costs of development and/or translation of automation or manufacturing policies and procedural manuals for the technology adopted under the approved project. Examples include health and safety policies, feedback systems, preventative maintenance procedures, standard operational procedures such as processing standards (e.g. time, temperature, speed, etc.) and employee scheduling systems
  • Third-party costs associated with training key personnel on project-related to new technology
  • Costs of software and software customization necessary for integration of advanced automation or manufacturing technology
  • In order to be eligible, applicants must:
    • Follow a procurement process that is transparent, fair and promotes the best value for the money at competitive market prices. Eligible expenses will be reimbursed only after all discounts available to an applicant have been applied.
    • All businesses from which goods or services are purchased must be at Arm's Length from the applicant, meaning that they are not related to the applicant, not affiliated with the applicant, or controlled in any way by the applicant.
    • All procured equipment funded under this program must be intended for exclusive and permanent use in facilities in Ontario.

Ineligible Activities and Expenditures:

  • Costs and activities associated with an expansion of or to a new or existing facility that is not specifically required for the implementation of eligible equipment
  • Ordinary costs of business' existing staff and on-going business
  • Ongoing software, extended warranties or service costs for the continued operation of the equipment post implementation
  • Costs related to activities that are only intended to achieve increased capacity or production output and will not implement advanced or innovative technology, enhance the protection of workers' health and safety against COVID-19, lead to increased business efficiencies and productivity
  • Costs related to implementing or upgrading Enterprise Resource Planning systems
  • Costs of equipment or components that are ancillary to the operation of eligible technology or equipment, meaning providing support, however not necessary to implement or operate eligible technology or equipment (e.g., pumps, boilers, conveyers)
  • Costs for facility changes, upgrades or modifications that are required for the eligible technology or equipment
  • Costs of improving air flow to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission in the labour-intensive work area
  • Ongoing material or input costs required for normal production
  • Travel and meal costs, except as permitted for engineering or professional services
  • In-kind contributions
  • Costs incurred in preparing an application for the Program
  • Projects that are in whole or in part located outside of Ontario
  • Costs incurred before the approval date for the project by OMAFRA or after the project completion date identified in the Contribution Agreement
  • Any cost that is unreasonable, improperly incurred or not specifically required for implementation of the project
  • Normal costs of establishing, expanding or operating a business
  • Normal costs of implementation of a facility expansion
  • Deposits (prepayments) for which goods or services are not yet fully received
  • Consultant and other contractor expenses for any hospitality (e.g., provision of food or beverages at events), incidentals or food
  • Hospitality costs (e.g., venue rental, food, beverages, AV, etc.)
  • Costs to purchase or lease land, building or facilities
  • Financing charges, loan and lease interest payments, bank fees and charges as well as debt restructuring or fundraising
  • Costs of gifts and incentives
  • Permits and other regulatory approvals
  • Legal fees
  • Costs related to activities that directly influence or lobby any level of government
  • Costs of basic research
  • Taxes, including Harmonized Sales Tax
  • Eligible costs that are reimbursed through a refund or rebate the applicant receives or is eligible to receive

Stacking Cost-share Funding

  • Stacking of Agri-Tech Innovation cost-share funding with funding under provincial programs or the Canadian Agricultural Partnership is not permitted.
  • Applicants can stack cost-share funding from other Federal cost-share funding programs only, assuming stacking is permitted under the applicable federal program(s). However, combined federal cost-sharing funding and Agri-Tech Innovation cost-share funding cannot exceed 85% of a project's eligible costs. All project funding sources (including stacking with Federal programs) must be disclosed in the application form.

Projects Not Eligible:

  • Projects that are not eligible for cost-share funding include those that:
    • Do not fit the eligible project category description
    • Support normal operating costs associated with carrying out business or increasing production capacity
    • Have the sole purpose of coming into or maintaining compliance with Requirements of the Law that pertain to current operations
    • Do not result in direct implementation of Advanced Automation or Manufacturing technology
    • Are piloting or trialing Advanced Automation or manufacturing Technology for research and design purposes and are not intending to integrate the technology into ongoing production practices or processes
    • Involve directly influencing or lobbying any level of government
    • Are located in whole or in part outside of Ontario

How will I be notified of a funding decision?

  • Applicants will be notified by email once applications have been reviewed and decisions have been made. There are two possible outcomes:
    • If the application is approved - the applicant will:
      • Receive an Approval Letter with details (e.g. maximum value of funding approved, earliest approved project start date)
      • Be required to enter into a Contribution Agreement with the Province of Ontario and follow all of its terms and conditions. No payments will be made to the successful applicant until the Agreement has been signed.
      • Receive confirmation of claim procedures and submission deadlines, and a final report that must be completed at the end of the project
      • Be required to register your business information in the Transfer Payment Ontario system or update your business information if already registered
      • Be required to register to receive direct deposit payments through Supply Chain Ontario
    • If the application is declined - the applicant will receive a notification confirming that the assessment has been completed and a brief explanation for the decision.

Claiming Funding for Approved Projects

When is Funding Paid?

  • Approved funding is paid after the applicant has incurred and paid for expenses and has submitted a claim package that meets all requirements and has been approved by OMAFRA.
  • Each eligible expenditure is reimbursed at the approved cost-share funding percentage.
  • There will be a 10 per cent holdback of reimbursement until a Final Report for the project is received and approved by OMAFRA. The Final Report submitted for the project must include a certification that the project has been completed within the project timelines stated in the Contribution Agreement, and the project must fulfil all other requirements stated in the Contribution Agreement.

How is a Claim Submitted?

  • Claims must be submitted to OMAFRA no later than the deadline date given in the Contribution Agreement.
  • OMAFRA may request any additional information from the applicant that is deemed necessary (e.g., copies of any permits obtained by the applicant in conducting the project, photos).
  • What your claim package must contain:
    • Completed claim form
    • Copies of all paid invoices
    • Proofs of payment
  • Each proof of payment submitted for a paid invoice must verify:
    • What was procured
    • Who paid
    • Who received payment
    • The amount of payment
    • The date of payment

Proof of payment may be any one of the following:

  • Copy of front and back of posted cheque (i.e. an electronic image of processed cheque)
  • Statement from banking institution indicating to whom the processed cheque was written, or electronic payment made, and for what amount
  • Credit card or debit card receipt or statement clearly identifying amount and to whom the payment was made. Credit card or debit card numbers and other information, including costs that are unrelated to the project, should be blacked out.

Travel and Meal Expenses

Travel and meal expenses may be eligible for funding for some projects where out of province travel related to engineering and professional services are required for the implementation of eligible equipment, provided that that travel is undertaken in accordance with any COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Travel and meal costs must be identified and approved as such in the application for an approved project.

Eligible funding for travel and meal expenses for an approved project may be claimed when the most economical transportation and accommodation (i.e., single accommodation in a standard room) is chosen.

Travel - the maximum eligible costs for personal vehicles driven within Ontario are:

Number of Kilometres Southern Ontario ($/km) Northern Ontario ($/km)
0-4,000 km 0.40 0.41
4,001-10,700 km 0.35 0.36
10,701-24,000 km 0.29 0.30
More than 24,000 km 0.24 0.25

Meals - Reimbursement for meal expenses is subject to the maximum eligible cost value set out in the tables below. Original, itemized receipts are required, and the eligible cost value will not exceed the actual amount spent. Taxes and gratuities are included in the maximum eligible cost value. Reimbursement is for restaurant/prepared food only and not available for alcohol purchases.

Maximum eligible costs for meals in Canada (CAD):

Meal Type Maximum Eligible Costs
Breakfast $10.00
Lunch $12.50
Dinner $22.50

Definitions of terms used in these Guidelines

Advanced Automation or Manufacturing Technology: means semi or fully automated, robotized or digitized technology that would reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission or replace/reduce labour intensive primary agri-food or manufacturing production steps or processes

Approval Letter: A letter, sent by email from OMAFRA, that is a notification of a conditional approval and sets out information including the amount of approved cost-share funding, project start date and project completion date

Arm's Length: An entity is considered to be at Arm's Length if they are not related, not affiliated persons, or otherwise controlled by another member or members. Refer to Section 251 of the Income Tax Act (Canada) for the provisions to determine Arm's Length relationships. If you have any questions about whether a supplier meets this requirement, please contact OMAFRA at 1-877-424-1300

Contribution Agreement: A legal agreement that successful applicants must enter into with the Province of Ontario, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, if the project is approved and the applicant agrees to receive funding. The legal agreement contains the terms and conditions that the applicant must comply with to receive cost-share funding

Incurred Cost: A cost for which a successful applicant has become liable to pay that is necessary for the successful completion of their project under the Initiative

Merit Assessment Criteria: Criteria used to establish the level of merit for funding of each eligible application, as set out in the merit assessment criteria in the guide

Project Category: Cost-share funding is made available under specific Project Categories, which each have their own parameters, criteria, and terms and conditions

Project Category Description: Each Project Category Description provides the parameters, criteria and terms and conditions specific to a Project Category under which cost-share funding is made available

Requirements of Law: All applicable Requirements of Law, as may be set out in statutes, regulations, by-laws, codes, rules, ordinances, official plans, approvals, permits, licenses, authorizations, decrees, injunctions, orders and declarations, or any other similar Requirement of Law

Application Declaration

In order to be considered for funding under the Agri-tech Innovation Cost-Share Program ('the Initiative), an eligible business must agree to be bound by the Terms and Conditions herein.

The business must be a legal entity that meets all eligibility requirements as set out above and in Minister's Order Number 0004/2020. The eligible business is referred to as "the business" below.

The individual who submits the application form must be a person who is authorized by the business to submit the form on its behalf and to bind it to the contents herein.

By submitting the form, the individual is certifying to:

  • Having read, understood and abided by all Program requirements, as well as being in agreement to continue to abide by all Program requirements. These requirements include that:
    • All information submitted on the application form is true and complete, to the best of your knowledge, belief and understanding.
    • The business is in compliance with all Requirements of the Law
    • Amounts of funding sourced from federal government for a submitted expense do not, and will not, exceed 85 per cent of the amount of the expense.
    • The business does not currently owe any money to Ontario, or a description of any the business' debt to Ontario is attached to the application form.
    • No officer, director or employee of the business, or other beneficiary of the expenses, is a current or former federal public office holder or federal public servant, or, if any officer, director or employee of the business is a current or former federal public officer holder or federal public servant, they are in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Act, the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, and the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment, as applicable.

In addition, the applicant is certifying that the business entity:

  • Will retain all records relating to any payments made to the business, including all invoices and proof of payment in an organized and business-like manner for at least seven (7) years from the date the application form was submitted.
  • Will consent to Ontario publishing information about the project ('Activities') funded including without limitation, the amount of funding the business has been approved to receive and/or has received, and the nature and results of any Activities funded, along with the business' name and location.
  • Will use as part of its project and retain ownership, possession and control of any tangible asset with a fair market value of over $10,000 purchased, contributed, constructed, developed or otherwise acquired by the business under this Program for at least two years following acquisition. For greater certainty, this includes refraining from leasing or otherwise encumbering these tangible assets. Further, 'fair market value' means the highest price that would be agreed to in an open and unrestricted market between knowledgeable, informed and willing parties acting at arm's length, who are under no compulsion to transact.

By submitting the form, the applicant acknowledges and accepts that:

  • Ontario has reserved the right to refuse the application form where it is not completed to Ontario's satisfaction.
  • Funding is provided through a discretionary, non-entitlement program and that the business is not entitled to funding merely as a consequence of submitting an application form. Payment, if any, is subject to Ontario having sufficient money within its existing budget, including receiving all the necessary appropriations from the Ontario Legislature; the business and the business' Activities satisfying eligibility criteria and eligible expense criteria; and the business' compliance with all these terms and conditions. If it is determined that the business received a payment it was not eligible to receive, through administrative error or otherwise, it will repay any and all payments that the business was not eligible to receive as well as any surplus funding in full promptly upon demand.
  • Any payments made to the business may be subject to recovery or offset against the business' pre-existing debts to the Crown in Right of Ontario. Ontario may also charge interest on any money owing by the business at the then current rate charged by Ontario on their respective accounts receivable.
  • Ontario including the respective Ministers, directors, officers, agents, employees or representatives (as applicable), shall not be liable for any injury, damages or losses whatsoever, or howsoever arising, including injury, damages or losses arising from any advice, opinions, representations, warranties or the provision of information it may provide to the Applicant.
  • The rights and obligations under the Program are governed by Ontario law. The Courts of Ontario will have exclusive jurisdiction over any proceedings related to the Program.
  • The information provided may be used and disclosed to conduct audits, enforce the terms and conditions of the Program, confirm that the person in receipt of payments under the Program paid taxes on the payments, and collect any debt owing.
  • The information, with the exception of the Social Insurance Number (SIN) provided by sole proprietors, members of unincorporated entities and partners in a partnership where they do not have Canada Revenue Agency business numbers, may be collected used and disclosed to, amongst other things, verify compliance with other provincial and federal funding initiatives, confirm the information provided, verify eligibility and ensure there is no duplication of funding or surplus funding.
  • The information provided may, with the exception of the SIN, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Ontario) or the Access to Information Act (Canada).
  • Any money received under the Program is for the administration of a social or economic program or for the provision of direct or indirect support to members of the public in connection with social and economic policy.

By submitting the form, the individual is consenting to the following on behalf of the business:

  • To provide accurate, timely and full information, including supporting documentation, to Ontario and to notify Ontario immediately in the event there are any material changes to the information already provided.
  • To provide Ontario and their authorized representatives with any information or access to a person, place or thing within the timelines provided by Ontario or its authorized representatives.
  • To comply with onsite field inspections and/or audits by Ontario and Ontario's authorized representatives upon notice, and during normal business hours, to verify eligibility, and to evaluate compliance with the requirements of the Program.
  • To comply with reviews by Ontario of information related to other programs and initiatives delivered by, or for, Ontario in which the business is enrolled or has applied.
  • The use of the business' name and contact information by Ontario to contact the business for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of programming, or for any other similar purpose.
  • To acknowledge Ontario's support in the following manner where the business receives funding under this Program: "The Agri-Tech Innovation Cost-Share program is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural"

In the event of a conflict, error, omission or inconsistency between anything set out in Guidelines, the Application Form, the Declaration and the Minister's Order 0004/2020 under which this Program were created, the Minister's Order will prevail.

Errors and Omissions Excepted.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300