Worth $37 billion, Ontario’s Agri-Food sector employed 800,000 Ontarians and was growing at 2.9% per year, in 2019. But in the Covid-19 pandemic, Ontario is entering unchartered territory. To help start-ups survive and even thrive in this new reality, The Research Innovation Office at the University of Guelph (U of G), in partnership with the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and the University of Guelph, is hosting the second annual Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch Competition. “While start-up founders always need to be agile and able to pivot at a moment’s notice, the recent effects of the COVID-19 crisis have made entrepreneurial life even more tumultuous than usual,” said Dana McCauley (photo), Director, New Venture Creation, Research Innovation Office. “But without these innovators who create unique, globally relevant concepts, Ontario will fall short when it comes time to kick start Ontario’s economy. That’s why we chose to pivot our pitch competition to an online format; cancelling because of physical distancing concerns just wasn’t an option.
CEO of Harvest Genomics and DNA scientist, Chris Grainger is ready for the challenge. "Being a part of the Gryphon's LAAIR Pitch competition training program is providing us with invaluable resources and the expertise necessary to take our start-up to the next level; we’re excited to participate,” he commented when told about the new format.
Likewise, Amanda Hutter, PhD candidate and founder of Green Feet Ecosystem Services, a corporation that uses drone technology to help land stewards to restore and protect environments, is keen to show the judges how the Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch training program has enabled her to strengthen her business’ value proposition. “Through this program I’m seeing how to bridge the gap between the potential of technology and the need modern day farmers have to make informed decisions to grow food sustainably,” says Hutter.
During the online pitch, five corporations who have roots in the U of G research community will go head-to-head to win a total of $20,000 in prizes that can be used to help grow their businesses. This year’s pitch teams include emendWELL, Green Feet Ecosystems Services, Harvest Genomics, Neophyto Foods and Psigryph Inc.
The judges are Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada; Joe Dales, President, Agriculture & Food Innovation, RH Accelerator Inc.; and Fred Wall, VP Marketing for Farm Credit Canada. The pitch competition will blend live pitches, pre-taped interviews and online voting where the audience will choose the winner of a $7,000 prize. Hosted by Improv comedian and entrepreneur Jay Reid of The Making Box, the show will also include a fireside chat about the history of the Gryphon’s LAAIR program with David J. Hobson, Manager, Technology Transfer & Entrepreneurship at the Research Innovation Office. He will also announce the 2020 recipients of the Gryphon’s LAAIR Grants.
The event returns on May 27 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.(EST) with new competitors and a new online format. This competition will introduce U of G innovators who are putting knowledge into action in ways that will have an impact on the Ontario economy today and tomorrow, while facing extraordinary challenges presented by Covid-19.