Fresh, delicious, hothouse strawberries in the dead of winter…can’t you just taste them? We would ALL love to see more local strawberries in our grocery stores, wouldn’t we?
Perhaps you’ve thought about growing strawberries in your greenhouse. Or you’ve dabbled in production already. Maybe you are a well-seasoned strawberry grower but eager to stay connected and continue learning.
If any of these sounds like you, you’ll want to check out an upcoming course on hydroponic strawberry production by Hort Americas.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) has just announced a new program to help fund agri-food businesses starting e-commerce sales or other activities that might open new market channels. This targeted intake is called “Agrifood Open for E-business” and can be found on the OMAFRA website.
Read on for more details of the program, who is eligible, and examples of projects ornamental growers can apply for in each of the two program streams.
Agrifood Open for E-business – Stream 1: Bring Your Business Online
Stream 1 is looking to target businesses who need to bring their business online quickly. Eligible businesses include farmers (on-farm stores included), on-farm markets, garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries.
Growers and garden centres can apply to receive up to $5,000 of funding to address marketing challenges through a new, expanded or enhanced on-line presence. Funding under this stream is designed to be quick and responsive for those needing timely solutions.
The priority here is to develop market channels to retain and/or expand sales with primary objective of bringing products to customers.
EXAMPLES from the ornamental sector that could be covered (starting as of April 24, 2020 unitl November 30, 2020) under Stream 1 include:
A Grower developing an online e-commerce site to increase or replace sales from roadside stands. This includes subscription fees (for up to 6 months), e-commerce website design costs and even web ads.
A Garden Centre with a e-presence already, using funds to expand merchandising and marketing efforts, and/or to make any necessary facility modifications.
AFarmers’ Market providing an online platform to share information about products that are now available for sale through alternative channels.
Agrifood Open for E-business – Stream 2: Develop Online Business Opportunities
This stream thinks bigger. It provides cost-share funding to develop e-commerce business opportunities on a larger scale to implement high-impact projects. Individual businesses can apply, as can eligible organizations. Collaborations are also encouraged. Funding is available for up to 90 per cent of eligible costs up to $75,000 (although smaller projects are preferred).
Stream 2 is not just about getting you online, it’s about creating stable, long term online marketing and sales platforms that will help businesses going forward. Priorities here are about creating or expanding new markets and revenue streams, and projects that meet broad business needs for the sector (e.g. an online platform that supports multiple businesses) and collaborative projects.
In this stream, applicants can show their projects are impactful by involving groups that represent multiple stakeholders, and/or by working together with other partners. Applicants can also show their project meets the needs of the broader sector by demonstrating industry support in other ways (such as support letters).
EXAMPLES for the ornamental sector that could be covered under Stream 2 include:
A Grower developing and validating a new operation process (e.g. switching from wholesale to retail). This would include the logistics related to new marketing channels (this could be anything from new shelving needed to sell on the roadside or moving plants through alternative logistics models), warehousing, shipping (including new packaging), delivery fulfillment (e.g. door-to-door) and other transactions, such as the purchase of new machinery to help adapt to new sales methods (e.g. new POS system that allows for contactless “tap” purchases for roadside, pickup or delivery sales options).
A Retail Centre (e.g. grocery stores) developing new models to market, merchandise and ship new products like ornamentals in a contactless manner. This could include website/merchandising expansion, training key personnel on the new process and delivery logistics
Grower Organizations collaborating with growers or other industry groups to market the benefits and availability of ornamentals (as long as it’s not restricted to Ontario-grown products only), or creating an app to more easily link growers to sellers.
A Farmers’ Market collaborating with its market vendors to establish and market an e-commerce platform, and to make minor facility modifications to address social distancing requirements that are directly related to the project.
All applicants to Stream 2 should show the project is meeting the needs of their broader sector by demonstrating industry support through letters from customers, suppliers and grower organizations. A grower can also show the project is meeting the needs of their local area through support letters from regional organizations (e.g., local business/economic development groups).
Make sure to check the Merit Criteria section closely! Note that costs relating to projects starting BEFORE April 24 will NOT be eligible. All applications should be submitted electronically to email@example.com
Electronic forms for submission can be found here:
Growers and retailers can apply for one project under EACH stream, in order to get their e-commerce platforms up and running quickly AND to engage in longer term marketing and sales processes that strengthen the sector over the long run.
An Additional FYI: OMAFRA and COVID
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to respect physical distancing measures, all our specialists are working remotely but are still available to assist you.
We will continue to support the sector’s needs by providing services via email, phone and virtual meetings where possible. We understand these are trying times for most and so we want to assure everyone that we are continuing delivery of information in a timely manner through these alternative channels.
We will continue to provide the sector with the support we’ve always given. Thank you for your understanding. Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
For those of you who missed the summary on Floral Daily, an interesting study on pesticide labeling of ornamentals was just published by researchers and extension specialists at Michigan State University(1).
The MSU team found that people who buy ornamental plants (both indoor and outdoor) obviously want healthy, insect-free plants.
But, they also found that consumers value plants labelled specifically as “bee friendly”. Consumers in the study were willing to pay anywhere from $0.13 to $1.50 more per plantfor “bee friendly” plantsthan those labelled “grown without neonicotinoid insecticides“.
Given all the hubbub about neonics in particular, why didn’t “neonicotinoid-free plants” resonate with consumers? Well, it turns out many consumers don’t actually understand the term. Of the >2000 people interviewed in this study, 57% admitted outright they didn’t know what it meant, and 11% thought the term meant produced would any insecticides. The MSU researchers found that labeling a plant as “neonicotinoid free” may actually have a detrimental effect on purchasing.
Studies like this are timely, considering major box stores (Home Depot, Loblaws, etc.) are demanding labeling to satisfy public concerns. Information on which labels consumers best respond to can be used by growers producing their own labels. Additionally, this information can be factored into pest management decisions.
1. The original article can only be obtained through a University library subscription or by purchase from HortScience, here: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org. Or, I can tots get you a copy if you really want one.