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Homegrown Innovation Challenge names judging panel

April 11, 2022  By Fruit & Vegetable

On April 5, the Weston Family Foundation announced the international panel of expert judges for its $33-million Homegrown Innovation Challenge. The panel will be chaired by Dominic Barton, former chair of Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth.

The Homegrown Innovation Challenge was launched on February 8 to catalyze innovation to solve the interconnected challenges that currently prevent the out-of-season production of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada. Participants in the challenge are asked to create market-ready systems for growing berries year-round in Canada on a commercially viable scale. Teams that successfully complete the challenge could be awarded up to $8 million in funding from the Weston Family Foundation.

The independent judging panel includes the following members:

  • Dominic Barton (Chair), Canada;
  • Dr. David Babson, United States;
  • Dr. Achim Dobermann, Germany;
  • Dr. Hicham Fatnassi, United Arab Emirates;
  • Dr. Jennifer Grenz, Canada;
  • Dr. Molly Jahn, United States; and
  • Sarai Kemp, Israel.

“Collectively, the members of our panel offer a breadth of experience in food systems innovation and will be instrumental in helping teams conceptualize and bring sustainable, locally grown food production solutions to market,” said Emma Adamo, Weston Family Foundation chair.

The Weston Family Foundation expects a wide range of ideas to come from the Homegrown Innovation Challenge applications. Based on preset criteria, the judging panel will leverage their expertise and experience to select the strongest contenders. The primary objective of these criteria is to assess the system developed, and not solely the berries produced, to lead to solutions applicable to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Canada is well-positioned to be a global leader in agricultural innovation and create a more sustainable and resilient food system,” Barton said. “The Homegrown Innovation Challenge is an exciting opportunity, and I am honoured to lead this panel of prestigious colleagues to find creative solutions to a global issue.”

The six-year challenge runs in several phases. The first Spark Award phase will see the selection of as many as 15 innovators, each receiving up to $50,000 to support the development of their concept, formation of a team, completion of their full application, and more. Spark Awards are not mandatory, and teams that do not apply for one or are not successful in their application may still apply for the overall Challenge in the Shepherd Phase.

Teams can submit their Spark Award applications until the May 3 deadline (12 p.m. ET).

Learn more about the application criteria and process and register for the informational webinar on April 13 at 1 p.m. ET at

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