GRAS joins Bioenterprise Canada as innovation sponsor
By Lilian Schaer for Bioenterprise Canada
Giving back to the community is part of the DNA of the Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) and its portfolio of ventures and programs. This includes a strong commitment to social entrepreneurship and expanding its philanthropic mandate – which is what has inspired the more than 100-year-old organization to become a sustainable innovation sponsor with Bioenterprise Canada, Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine.
“During a recent strategic planning process, we really took a hard look at our vision, mission and values, and although racing and entertainment are our paths, our guiding light is philanthropic,” explains Katie Giddy, Vice President, Operations. “Our new vision is to nourish people, animals and the planet and doing that through supporting innovation, education, communications and economic growth to enable agriculture and the environment to thrive.”
GRAS operates the GrandWay Event Centre, Grand River Raceway and is home to Elements Casino Grand River as a tenant. All net funds generated are reinvested back into activities and facilities that align with the GRAS vision. The organization’s increased financial stability over the last decade has put it into the unique position of being able to distribute funds through impact investing, which includes supporting ag tech companies and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.
“What we are looking to do is fund early-stage companies who have an innovative approach to solving problems or creating products in the agriculture and environment space,” she adds. “As an early investor in ag tech companies, we’ve opened doors, and by being an agricultural society that is steeped in deep history, we have come to find ourselves in a position of credibility, especially to those outside of agriculture.”
GRAS was one of the first organizations to back Ag Capital Canada and has more recently also built a collaboration with The51 Ventures, which focuses on supporting women-led and diverse businesses. It was through its ongoing search for partners and like-minded organizations that GRAS made a connection with Bioenterprise Canada.
According to Giddy, Bioenterprise’s national network, mentorship capacity, and depth of expertise, as well as its commitment to sustainable innovation, made the Canada-wide accelerator a very attractive partner for GRAS.
“This connection to innovation is a particularly important part of our strategic plan. It’s about connectivity in this ecosystem, and by working together, we can have access to people, processes, and places,” she says. “The hope is that being aligned with an organization like Bioenterprise can help us collectively make any gains in this space go further.”
In addition to its impactful investing activities, GRAS also partners with other organizations in the ag innovation space and has recently launched its Rapid Response to Business Development program. Originally pioneered by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, the program supports companies who are looking to grow their businesses.
The GRAS scholarship program provides twelve awards of $2,500 each to students enrolled in agriculture or environment-related programs at the post-secondary level. Through various multi-year funding commitments, GRAS also supports their local hospital and organizations such as Equine Guelph, 4-H, Ontario Agricultural College, AgScape, Rural Ontario Institute, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation and Farm & Food Care Ontario.
To learn more about the Engine’s sustainable innovation commitment and examples of novel, sustainable innovations its programs support, or to become a Bioenterprise sustainable innovation sponsor, visit https://bioenterprise.ca/sustainability/ or contact Carla Berquó, firstname.lastname@example.org or 519.821.2960 ext. 205 / 1.866.464.4524.