Agritech Innovation Challenge helping British Columbia producers and processors grow

News release

August 2, 2019 – Victoria, British Columbia – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture

British Columbia’s Agritech Innovation Challenge has awarded a total of $150,000 to three innovative projects. These projects will see British Columbia (B.C.) beekeepers gain an edge in the battle with the Varroa mite, mushroom producers use robots to harvest and winemakers produce wine more efficiently.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University will continue to explore how a nontoxic chemical compound can target the Varroa mite, a pest that can cause significant bee colony loss. Effective Varroa control promotes healthy hives and increases the probability of hives surviving the winter. Results from this study could lead to healthier hives in British Columbia, an increased availability of local pollinators, improved honey production, and a reduction of imported bee colonies.

BarrelWise Technologies in Vancouver is developing a tool that helps winemakers care for aging wine barrels, making the process more consistent and cost effective. The venture’s equipment allows barrels to remain sealed during the entire aging process, reducing the risk of contamination. It also tracks key chemical data, such as free sulfur dioxide, in each barrel, allowing winemakers to better monitor and control wine production. BarrelWise hopes its tool will help further improve the quality of wine produced in British Columbia.

Technology Brewing Corporation, a company located in Salmon Arm, is developing a vision guided robot capable of accurately picking, trimming and placing mushrooms in store-ready boxes. This project could help get British Columbia mushrooms to market quicker and help address the mushroom sector’s labour shortage.

Each of the three projects will receive $50,000 from the federally and provincially funded Agritech Innovation Challenge, as well as mentorship and market validation training through Innovate BC. The Agriculture Innovation Challenge was presented in collaboration with Innovate BC and aims to increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of British Columbia's agriculture, agrifood and seafood industries, while providing tech companies with access to new customers and products with global market potential.

Funding for the Agritech Innovation Challenge is provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative to strengthen the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector.


“Our Government is proud to support the three winners of the B.C. Agritech Innovation Challenge, and I look forward to seeing their innovative ideas come to fruition. Their efforts will ensure farmers and processors have the tools they need to succeed and meet growing demand for top-quality local products.”

- The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“Creating opportunities to bring together different sectors is a great way to generate new ideas that will help strengthen agriculture, processing and technology. It’s exciting to see the development of these innovative projects that will help farmers and processors throughout B.C. stay competitive and strengthen our province’s food security.“

-  Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Agriculture

“The Agritech Innovation Challenge gives B.C. innovators an opportunity to secure funding, partner with government, and create a solution that will have a direct impact on our province. B.C.-based innovation has the ability to transform our agriculture sector into a globally competitive and profitable industry that creates high-paying jobs for British Columbians and stimulates the provincial economy.”

-  Raghwa Gopal, President and CEO, Innovate BC

“Innovation is so critical to the long-term success of the agrifoods sector in B.C. and Canada. The Agritech Innovation Challenge is a great catalyst to help the industry achieve success, and the successful projects are great examples of that. Congratulations to the winners of the Agritech Innovation Challenge!”

- James Donaldson, CEO, BC Food Processors Association

"I am honoured to have been selected for the Agritech Innovation Challenge 2019. This funding will support our development of a new tool for the control of the varroa mite in beekeeping (apiculture). Control of the varroa mite is needed to protect and enhance apicultural and associated agricultural productivity in British Columbia."

- Erika Plettner, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Simon Fraser University

“As a young business, BarrelWise resources are rather limited. This award goes a long way towards helping our venture build a product that is genuinely valuable to the B.C. winemaking industry. We are excited to be part of the Agritech Innovation Challenge, and look forward to the work ahead. Thank you to the Ministry of Agriculture and Innovate BC for their support!”

- Jason Sparrow, CEO, BarrelWise Technologies LTD.

“This funding will enable us to start helping B.C. farmers improve their harvesting efficiency using robotic automation. With a successful prototype, we will quickly progress to testing in an actual mushroom farm. This is a very large and technically challenging project with many parts. It will not only benefit the mushroom industry but help shine a light on B.C.’s high-tech sector as well.”

- Mike Bourdeau, President and CEO, Technology Brewing Corporation

Associated links


Justine Lesage
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
613-404-1168 (Cell)

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Follow us on Twitter: @AAFC_Canada
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Blake Bilmer
Junior Public Affairs Officer
British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture
Government Communications and Public Engagement

Jamil A. Karim
Marketing and Communications Manager
Innovate BC

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