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New agri-business development hub launched in northern Ontario

February 9, 2021  By Fruit & Vegetable

A new innovation hub of food and agriculture sector expertise and business acceleration services is now available to support entrepreneurs in northern Ontario. Bioenterprise has launched a pan-northern Ontario pilot project that will focus on connecting start-ups and early-stage businesses with services and targeted resources across Ontario and Canada.

“There is tremendous potential in the agriculture and agri-food sector in northern Ontario, and our goal is to complement support from existing centres and initiatives across the region with our national innovation network to contribute to growth and success in the North,” says Bioenterprise CEO Dave Smardon.

Thora Cartlidge, a professional planner with strong roots in sustainable community development and natural resource management, is Bioenterprise’s new regional manager for northern Ontario. She and business development co-ordinator Taylor Gynane are based out of Thunder Bay at Ingenuity, Lakehead University’s business incubator. Rounding out the northern Ontario team is Dieter Valtins, who is situated in Sudbury and serves as relationship manager for northeastern Ontario.


The Bioenterprise northern Ontario team is supported by an advisory committee of stakeholders from across the region. In addition to Cartlidge, who serves as committee chair, members include:

  • Kim Jo Bliss, Ontario Crops Research Centre in Emo, Ont., with the University of Guelph;
  • Brent Cadeau, Northwest Beef Co-op/Beef Farmers of Thunder Bay/Beef Farmers of Ontario;
  • Denis Castonguay, Coopérative régionale Nipissing-Sudbury;
  • Norman Jaehrling, White Lake Limited Partnership, Pic Mobert First Nation Venture;
  • Alyson MacKay, Ingenuity, Lakehead University’s Business Incubator;
  • Sean Murray, Nor’wester Maple Company/Canada West Maple Products; and
  • Stephanie Vanthof, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, northeastern Ontario.

“The advisory committee will play a key role in helping to build connections between farmers, agri-businesses, and investors and in identifying potential pilot innovation project opportunities across northern Ontario,” Cartlidge says. “Bioenterprise, as Canada’s Food and Agri-Tech Engine, has a proven track record in sector-specific knowledge and building partnerships, and we are excited to be able to harness that expertise for the benefit of the regional economy and entrepreneurs in the North.”

Funding for this two-year pilot project is provided through FedNor’s Regional Growth Through Innovation Fund, which supports the growth of northern Ontario businesses.

Bioenterprise brings more than 15 years of industry experience and a national and international network of research institutions, academia, mentors and experts, government, and industry to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses in the sector connect, innovate and grow. Through its service partner network, Bioenterprise offers a wide range of business expertise and support to its clients, and partnerships with other industries to help open doors to new technologies and platforms to help the agri-tech and food sector innovate and grow. Visit to learn more.

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