Government of Canada announces support for innovative solutions to address labour challenges in the agriculture and agri-food sector


Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Today, Élisabeth Brière, Member of Parliament for Sherbrooke and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced the 5 projects that will receive up to $1 million in funding each under Phase 2 of the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program – Challenge Stream. The announcement was made at Exonetik Inc., one of the Phase 2 winners.

The 5 projects, approved for funding by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, will target the Canadian meat processing industry and the Canadian controlled environment agriculture industry with the goal of advancing automation and robotic technologies. These companies have developed ideas to address challenges such as work productivity, labour shortages, and operational efficiency.

Under the Canadian Meat Processing Technology Development Challenge, projects include:

  • Exonetik Inc. – Developing a low-cost, collaborative robot to help automate tasks
  • E.O.I Technologies Inc. – Developing sensors to collect data on fast moving conveyor systems

Under the Enhancing Automation in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Farming Challenge, projects include:

  • Exonetik Inc. – Developing a robotic arm to work alongside humans to harvest fruits and vegetables
  • Mycionics Inc. – Developing a robotic mushroom harvester, packer and harvester lift
  • Kinova Inc. – Developing a robotic arm to pick, harvest and de-leaf cucumbers and strawberries


“These cutting-edge solutions will help the sector overcome some of the challenges it faces, leading to a more prosperous and competitive future for Canadian agriculture. Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you for your great work.”

– The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“Through the Innovative Solutions Canada program, our government empowers SMEs to drive innovation and solve challenges. These initiatives support the sustainable growth of our economy and the agricultural industry.”

– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“Innovation is vital to address the challenges faced by producers and processors, such as labor shortages and improving conditions in greenhouses and slaughterhouses. Our government supports these efforts through Innovative Solutions Canada, assisting small and medium-sized Canadian businesses in developing new inventions that are crucial for the sector. I am proud of these advancements that support our food processors and farmers, highlighting the importance and essence of their work.”

– Élisabeth Brière, Member of Parliament for Sherbrooke and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“At Exonetik, our team is developing solutions that will enable our partners, Savoura and Frontmatec, to automate tasks that until now could only be performed by humans. With the support of Innovative Solutions Canada, we will complete the development of the first marketable version of teleoperable haptic robot arms, capable of learning from human operators and automatically reproducing the same operations, with a sensitivity and adaptability unattainable by industrial or collaborative robots. Our mission is to make the impossible possible, and we believe that robotics can solve the labor shortage problems facing companies in the agri-food sector.”

– Pascal Larose, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Exonetik

“Food processing facilities suffer from operational inefficiencies when it comes to running tens or hundreds of conveyor systems across a typical plant. Food safety and contamination are a constant concern, as well as costly downtime which must be minimized. We are developing an innovative sensing technology that can proactively monitor the health and condition of conveyor systems in real time and provide predictive intelligence in order to avoid failures and potential food contamination. We are grateful to the Innovative Solutions Canada Program and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for their support to develop a market ready solution which we can pioneer in Canada.”

– Alex Sulkin, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of E.O.I Technologies

“Our exceptional team of Mycionics engineers is developing custom machine vision and robotic harvesting solutions to assist farmers with the increasing labor shortage in the global mushroom industry. Financial support from ICS will accelerate our technology development and enable the commercialization of this innovative Canadian technology.”

– Michael Curry, Chief Executive Officer of Mycionics Inc.

“Kinova is delighted to have been selected to continue advancing robotics and automation in agriculture. With the first phase completed and the results positive, we are confident of the benefits for the second phase. We would like to thank Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Innovative Solutions Canada for their confidence.”

– Jonathan Lussier, Director of Industrial Business Development for Kinova

Quick facts

  • Meat processing plants rely heavily on manual labour, and are challenging environments, cold with high humidity levels to manage effectively. Technical innovation provides opportunities to improve the operational efficiency and safety of workers in meat processing facilities where people and machines often interact.
  • Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA) production is labour intensive, requiring workers for a range of critical production tasks including propagation, planting, movement and management of plants, cleaning, harvesting, pest management, pruning, sorting and packaging. The greenhouse industry is by far the largest and fastest growing segment of indoor farming.


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