Our Food Future releases strategic go-forward priorities.

Action plans will tackle critical issues, including climate change, food waste and food access.

Guelph, Ont., February 9, 2023—Guelph-Wellington’s Smart Cities Office is launching three action plans that lay the groundwork for long-term environmental, economic, and social gains through proven circular economy practices across our regional food system and beyond.

The three action plans provide the framework to build a sustainable model that continues and strengthens the ongoing work. Each plan includes strategic priorities based on research and experience. The Smart Cities Office will lead the implementation of the plans, with activation in the communities they serve, to embed the strategic priorities into systems and programs across Guelph and Wellington County.

The Our Food Future initiative was launched in 2019 to implement a circular food economy in Guelph and Wellington County after being awarded $10 Million from Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.

“Congratulations to the City of Guelph and Wellington County on all your accomplishments through Our Food Future. The Government of Canada is proud to see that our support, through the Smart Cities Challenge, has helped plant the seed of innovation. The results have had a positive impact on the community and the program can serve as a model for other communities across the country,” said Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph, on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities.

The Food Security Action Plan includes barrier-breaking initiatives like a regional healthy food prescription program, increased local food infrastructure, and a community food growing strategy.

The Circular Business Action Plan focuses on building a thriving circular business foundation, commercial models that challenge status quo thinking, and creating markets for recovered materials and upcycled products.

Finally, the Waste as a Resource Action Plan includes ground-breaking behaviour change strategies for consumer food waste reduction, and technology solutions to access real time data to further refine to these strategies.

“Our Food Future and COIL have always been community driven projects, with hundreds of organizations stepping up to advance the shared vision of a regional circular food economy. These action plans set a clear road map forward to sustain the momentum around the circular economy in this region into the future,” notes David Messer, executive director, Smart Cities Office.

These efforts are strengthening communities.

Our Food Future has gained remarkable momentum and worldwide attention including a recent Special Mention award from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact Awards. Efforts by the local circular economy network, representing government, industry, academia, public health, and community agencies, have produced research and pilot projects that are guiding waste reduction strategies and winning awards. More than 200 businesses have adopted circular approaches to reduce waste and launched new services and ‘upcycled’ products.

Regenerative agriculture practices are being tested on over 60 hectares (150 acres) of local farmland—an area 12 times the size of the Roger’s Centre (SkyDome), and dozens of grassroots food access projects have been funded or supported including first-in-Canada programs to tackle food insecurity.

“We have an exciting and busy year ahead,” adds Messer. “2023 will involve extensive community engagement and conversations through Reimagine Food and the Food System Resiliency Table, and new projects and leadership to continue embedding circularity across the local food system and beyond.”

Additional Quotes

“What an incredible success story already. When we first applied for this funding, we knew we were a place where food problems could be solved, and this work is proving that. As our communities have struggled with the pandemic and rising food costs, Our Food Future has been immediately beneficial, while the long-term promise of environmental and economic outcomes is also clear.”

Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph.

“Wellington County has a long history as an agricultural powerhouse, and the food innovations happening in our region today are truly inspirational. The success of the Experimental Acres Farm Pilot demonstrates that our producers are keen to have their innovation supported. Farming is the perfect place to build on circularity in action. We look forward to growing an even brighter, reimagined food future.”

Warden Andy Lennox, County of Wellington

About Our Food Future

Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50 per cent increase in access to affordable nutritious food, create 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50 per cent increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.

Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.

About Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL)

COIL is a sister initiative to Our Food Future – both led by the Smart Cities Office, a joint local government project of the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington. Funding for COIL program participants is provided in collaboration with 10C’s Harvest Impact Fund, a social-finance initiative that supports impactful projects to strengthen local communities.

COIL programs, tools and resources are delivered as a collaboration between the City of Guelph, the County of Wellington, Innovation Guelph, 10C Shared Space and Anthesis Provision.


Graphic – Impact tiles

2022 Annual Report – Smart Cities Office

Media Contacts

David Messer, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3661
[email protected]

COIL funds over 100 circular businesses in first year

Smart Cities Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) initiative leading to innovative solutions that reduce waste and fight climate change

Guelph, Ontario

In spring 2021, the Smart Cities Office, Innovation Guelph, 10C and Anthesis Provision announced COIL (Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad), an exciting new initiative aimed at accelerating the growth of new circular economy innovations and businesses across southern Ontario in the food and environment sectors. Since launching programs in fall 2021, COIL programs have received strong uptake from
businesses across the province, and have attracted interest from other regions, industry sectors and corporate sponsors helping to expand this work.

Support for over 100 local and regional businesses to adopt circular economy principles

Backed with $5 million in funding from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), COIL has launched 11 program intakes resulting in over 100 businesses across the province participating in COIL programs. This has included:

  • Five cohorts of the Activate and Evolve Accelerator programs led by Innovation Guelph totaling 63 circular economy businesses;
  • Four innovation challenges and CoLab rapid innovation processes led by smart cities – totalling 39 companies;
  • Eight companies participating in RePurpose Incubator programs led by Anthesis Provision and
  • Four demonstration projects receiving funding up to $100,000.

“It’s been an incredible first year for COIL. The speed at which this initiative has grown and scaled really shows the power of partnership between the collaborating organizations and the unique value COIL adds to Ontario’s innovation ecosystem.” says David Messer, Executive Director of the Guelph-Wellington Smart Cities Office.

“I continue to be impressed by the impact that COIL is having to help small businesses, transform local economies and drive sustainable solutions,” says the Honorable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting these important efforts.”

“I am proud to be part of a community that is working hard to advance circular economy business models and opportunities in the food and environment sectors,” says Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph. “Through our support for COIL, our government is recognizing the important role that circular systems will play in a greener, cleaner future.”

“We are seeing so many incredible innovators coming through COIL programs with
amazing products and solutions that reduce waste and emissions while growing the
economy,” says Alison Crumblehulme, CEO of Innovation Guelph.

Some examples of business innovations coming out of the COIL program include:

Abokichi & Vision Bakery: Sunrise Soya, the largest tofu processor in the country, had an unavoidable and natural by-product from the tofu-making process called okara. The Incubator connected Sunrise with Vision Bakeries (Georgetown, ON) and Abokichi (Mississauga, ON) to create new products from the nutrient
dense okara. Vision dehydrated the product to create an okara flour for baking, while Abokichi made okara-based ramen noodles. The local economic impact has been impressive. Vision has commercialized an entire line of upcycled muffins and cupcakes that are now available in Sobeys and Foodland stores across the country with impressive revenues and job creation in its first year. Abokichi created an entire upcycled ramen noodle kit including broken tofu pieces Sunrise couldn’t otherwise sell, and a miso paste made from a sake by-product.

Friendlier: Friendlier is Canada’s fastest growing reusable container company. The unique aspect of Friendlier’s system lies in its data-driven approach. Each Friendlier container has a QR code that customers scan before returning. The data supports retailers with the market research and behavioural insights about consumer preferences and patterns. Each Friendlier container return renders a quick and easy deposit through e-transfer, making things easier on both the retailer and consumer alike. In developing the product, handling the reverse logistics (delivery, sanitization, pick-up, etc.) and capturing market data, Friendlier offers a competitive full-package service that is comparably priced to the status quo of single-use containers. The demand for reusable packaging, containers and plastic alternatives is skyrocketing – and is now being reinforced by the federal single-use plastics ban coming into effect this year. Friendlier has already been approached by other industries to build out its packaging solutions, including restaurants, coffee shops, grocery outlets and cannabis retailers. As of November 2022, Friendlier has diverted 250,000+ containers from landfill and prevented 42,000kg of GHG emissions.

All Sorts Acres: Grey County has the highest per-capita concentration of sheep farms in all of Canada. Yet shockingly, an estimated 75 percent of that wool is of non-clothing quality and, as a result, ends up in the landfill. All Sorts Acres, a local sheep farm, is pelletizing wool into a rich source of renewable and biodegradable fertilizer that makes soil fertility more localized and sustainable while reducing the need for water and chemicals. As recipients of COIL’s Evolve Pre-Accelerator and Circulate CoLab funding, All Sorts Acres will also be exploring the application of wool pellets well beyond sustainable agriculture. Local wool can also be used in Construction, Renovation and Demolition (CRD) for insulation (wool fibreglass) and soundproofing, as well as in disaster planning and resiliency through oil spill mitigation.

For the full list of over one hundred businesses participating in COIL programs, visit the website at https://coil.eco/ and our COIL Stories page.

Launch of Harvest Impact Social-Finance Loans

Social finance is a key part of the COIL and Our Food Future programs, as it provides capital resources that can help advance initiatives that may otherwise not be able to access financing. In May 2021, Harvest Impact, a social-finance fund led by 10C issued its first loans, which have grown to 10 loans totaling $125,900. Harvest Impact offers loans at often below-market rates, including no-interest loans for businesses participating in COIL programs.

“Harvest Impact is a gamechanger because it will help ensure that small businesses and social enterprises that provide social and environmental value for our community value, are supported by that same community,” says Julia Grady of 10 Carden.

COIL advancing four demonstration projects, with more on the way

Last spring COIL announced that teams led by Greenhouse Juice and St. James Town Community Co-op would be the first two project to receive funding as COIL demonstration projects, receiving $100,000 and $50,000 respectively following $20,000 received in a CoLab prototyping phase.

In August, Green Bowls became the next business to be awarded $100,000 as a COIL demonstration project. Green Bowls is working with a local juice maker and brewery to produce a line of ready-to-eat meals made largely from upcycled ingredients such as juice pulps and spent brewing grain. Beyond being good for the planet, the meals have a high nutritional value and include fibre.

COIL is also supporting upwards of 10 companies to have their products receive
Certified Upcycled™ certification. The Certified Upcycled™ standard was developed by the Upcycled Food Association, and this demonstration project will help consumers learn about the environmental benefits of upcycled foods. Cher Mereweather of Anthesis Provision notes that, “Most consumers aren’t aware of what upcycled food is, but once they learn, most are highly interested in trying it out. This standard will make it easier to identify foods that help reduce waste and support the growth of the circular food economy.”

COIL plans to fund at least three more demonstration projects in the next six months.

COIL Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab launching pilots with two businesses

With funding from the Co-Operators, COIL’s Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab (ZWETL) is launching two pilots aimed at helping capture and divert waste from new residential construction sites. After competing in a civic innovation challenge, Better Bin Co. and AET were selected to pilot novel approaches to source separation of construction materials with the potential to scale across the region.

“Construction materials account for almost 65 percent of landfill waste, and most of that can be recycled and upcycled if it doesn’t just go into a single dumpster. With this pilot, we hope to figure out the business models and broader industry conditions we need to put in place so more construction and renovation projects can become zero or minimal waste,” says Madeline Carter, Project Lead for ZWETL.

About COIL

Launched in April 2021, with $5 million in funding from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), COIL is an innovation platform and activation network focused on creating, proving and scaling transformative solutions across all sectors – starting with food and environment – in southern Ontario that will move Canada toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) is a sister initiative to the flagship, Our Food Future – both led by the Smart Cities Office, a joint local government project of City of Guelph and County of Wellington. Funding for COIL program participants is provided in collaboration with 10C’s Harvest Impact Fund, a social-finance initiative that supports impactful projects to strengthen local communities.

COIL programs are delivered as a collaboration between City of Guelph, County of Wellington, Innovation
Guelph, 10 Carden and Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

About FedDev Ontario

For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.



Media Contacts

David Messer
Executive Director, Smart Cities Office
Office of the CAO, City of Guelph
[email protected]

Edward Hutchinson

Press Secretary

Office of the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

[email protected]

Momentum building for local construction and demolition circularity lab

Co-operators providing additional funding for COIL Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab.

Guelph, Ont., January 26, 2023 – Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab (the Lab) is receiving an additional $350,000 in funding from Co-operators. The Lab is a Smart Cities initiative, co-led by the City of Guelph and County of Wellington through the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) project.

The circular economy project focuses on the diversion and recovery of construction, renovation and demolition materials from landfill and the creation and support of secondary markets for these resources. The additional funding comes just one year after Co-operators provided an initial $350,000 to help launch the project and the Lab. The renewed commitment from Co-operators strengthens the unique local public-private collaboration to tackle challenges contributing to climate change while supporting principles of a circular economy.

Research to address challenges

In 2022, the Lab produced two research reports that are contributing to an improved understanding of the construction industry’s material use and recycling conditions in Guelph-Wellington. The research identified the variety, quantities and carbon impacts of construction waste. Additionally, the research provides insight into why construction, renovation and demolition materials are either landfilled or recycled. Both reports are available on the COIL website. Together, this research will help inform targeted ways to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

“To reduce what’s going to landfill, we need to find ways to create new value from materials that are currently considered waste while doing so in a way that reduces the carbon footprint of our built environment. Our research gives us both the material and business perspectives for where waste happens, which will help us make better choices to change the system,” notes David Messer, Executive Director, Smart Cities Office.

The Lab is piloting construction material separation

A material source-separation pilot project will launch this year with two innovative companies, AET Group and The Better Bin Company, the pilot is a new circular approach to separating construction materials on local building sites. Interested local homebuilders and contractors are encouraged to contact COIL to participate in the pilot project.

“We see large amounts of construction materials going to landfill, however most materials can be reused or recycled if they are separated properly on-site. Our pilot project will help build the business case for separating materials on local construction sites using best practices and increase material recycling rates,” says Madeline Carter, project lead, Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab.

The Lab recently announced plans for a first-ever National Construction & Demolition Circular Innovation Challenge that will be presented in collaboration with Vancouver Economic Commission and Halifax Partnership. Funding will be made available across Canada to encourage the development of new climate-smart circular ideas and solutions to the materials recovery, reuse and recycling challenges currently faced by the construction, renovation and demolition sector. The challenge is slated to launch in spring 2023. Check the COIL website for updates.

Additional quotes

“As the City and County continue to grow, the work of the Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab will help us develop sustainably and with less waste. Co-operators is a circular economy leader in our community, and we sincerely thank them for working with us to find solutions to big challenges that affect us all.

Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph

“We know significant waste and emissions are generated through the insurance claims process, in demolition and rebuilding after an event occurs. Guided by our vision to be a catalyst for a resilient and sustainable society, we are committed to reducing our environmental impact and seizing opportunities to drive positive change in our communities. We’re thrilled to support the Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab and help bring the circular economy to life.”

Karen Flamand, associate vice-president, Co-operators

“We’re pleased to see this innovative pilot combine two of the County’s priorities: more homes for families and strong environmental stewardship. Our thanks to Co-operators for supporting circularity in this sector.”

Andy Lennox, Warden, County of Wellington

About Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL)

Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) is an innovation platform and activation network focused on creating, proving, and scaling transformative solutions across organizations, supply chains and material streams. It launched in April 2021 with support funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. COIL programs, tools and resources are designed and operated to help move Canada toward a climate-smart circular economy.  The initiative is a collaboration between City of Guelph and County of Wellington and its program delivery partners, including Innovation Guelph, 10C Shared Space and Anthesis Provision.

COIL Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab was launched in January 2022 with the goal of expanding Guelph-Wellington’s circular economy work to new sectors. Its first focus area is the CRD sector. Using circular economic principles, the Lab tests and develops new approaches to recover and recycle more materials that are currently perceived as waste.

About Co-operators

Co-operators General is a leading Canadian multi-product insurance company and is part of The Co-operators Group Limited (Co-operators). Co-operators is a leading Canadian financial services co-operative, offering multi-line insurance and investment products, services, and personalized advice to help Canadians build their financial strength and security. The company has more than $64.6 billion in assets under administration. Co-operators has been providing trusted guidance to Canadians for the past 76 years. The organization is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. Achieving carbon neutral equivalency in 2020, the organization is committed to net-zero emissions in its operations and investments by 2040, and 2050, respectively. Co-operators is also ranked as a Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizen in Canada. For more information, please visit: www.cooperators.ca.

Media Contact

David Messer
Executive Director, Smart Cities Office
City of Guelph
[email protected]

New initiative strengthens link between circular economy and actions to address climate change

Guelph, Ontario, October 3, 2022 – Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL), a Smart Cities initiative of City of Guelph and County of Wellington, launched the Climate and Circularity Solutions Hub(Hub) on September 19.

The Hub provides expertise, research and strategies to help regional businesses and community organizations adopt circular economy actions to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. It will also further Guelph’s commitment to the United Nations Race to Zero campaign and becoming a net zero carbon community by 2050.

Leveraging COIL’s existing regional networks, infrastructure and expertise, the Hub understands, develops and shares specific strategies that reduce waste, creates new value and fights climate change. It supports new learning opportunities, and the evaluation and measurement of circular approaches that maximize emission reductions. 

“The circular economy is climate action, and in Ontario we have an incredible ecosystem of leaders committed to building a more sustainable future,” says David Messer, executive director, Smart Cities Office, City of Guelph. “The research and programming within the Hub fosters new knowledge, tools and resources that will engage more people with the circular economy and ensure developed strategies deliver maximum impact toward emissions reduction. We look forward to working with current and new collaborators to accelerate the shift to a climate-smart circular economy.”

The Hub will drive innovation through three areas of focus.

  • Carbon Negative Innovation Zone: Using COIL expertise, this zone will attract forward-looking businesses and social innovators to work together on system-changing demonstration projects. The Hub prototypes and pilots policies, tools, technology and infrastructure to accelerate climate-smart and circular systems redesign.
  • New Climate-Smart Circular Indicators: Not all circular strategies result in emissions reductions. Innovation efforts must concentrate investigation on approaches and practices that maximize decarbonization. The Hub brings together experts, academic partners and communities of practice to stimulate new thinking to identify, measure and verify circular economic pathways and best-practices.
  • Learning Extension: Businesses – their leaders, staff and customers – need greater awareness of the benefits and opportunities of the circular economy for sustainable growth. The Hub leads education, training and engagement programs that will increase knowledge and skills needed to drive a climate-smart circular economy.

COIL’s Climate and Circularity Solutions Hub collaborators and advisors include: 10C Shared Space, Anthesis Provision, Arrell Food Institute at University of Guelph, CSA Group, David Suzuki Foundation, Innovation Guelph, Innovation North, Ivey Business School – Centre for Building Sustainable Value, Network for Business Sustainability and Our Food Future.

Funding for initial Hub programming and research was provided by corporate supporters, such as Desjardins and Maple Leaf Foods. Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) is reliant on generous contributions from funders; if interested in helping us further our circular economy goals, then please contact us at [email protected].

About Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL)

Launched in April 2021, with $5 million in funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, COIL is an innovation platform and activation network focused on creating, proving and scaling transformative solutions across all sectors – starting with food and environment – in southern Ontario that will move Canada toward a more sustainable, circular economy. Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) is a sister initiative to the flagship, Our Food Future – both led by the Smart Cities Office, a joint local government project of City of Guelph and County of Wellington. Funding for COIL program participants is provided in collaboration with 10C’s Harvest Impact Fund, a social-finance initiative that supports impactful projects to strengthen local communities.

Media contact

David Messer

Executive Director
Smart Cities Office, City of Guelph
[email protected]  

Forty food and environment businesses will work with COIL to reduce or transform waste

COIL expects 40 circular businesses across southern Ontario to be involved in our programs by December 2021. Below are details on some of the sustainability-focused businesses that are currently partnering with COIL to advance the circular economy.

Examples of companies working with COIL:

Escarpment Labs (Guelph): a microbial culture producer that supplies brewers with liquid brewing yeast through reusing materials and transforming waste into new products. 

The SEED (Guelph): as a project of the Guelph Community Health Centre, the SEED aims to ensure that everyone in Guelph-Wellington has access to nutritious food. The SEED’s Good Food Warehouse reduces waste and gets food where it is most needed.

Ag Business & Crop Inc. (Palmerston): supplies innovative tools for precision agriculture and educates famers on how to improve environmental sustainability and crop productivity when growing nutritious food. 

The Conscious Kitchen (Holland Centre): as a solution to the waste that is produced by the meal kit industry, The Conscious Kitchen provides convenient, ready-to-eat meals that are plant-based and zero-waste.

Suntech Greenhouses (Manotick): a hydroponic greenhouse that provides locally grown produce and is committed to reducing food waste. 

Spent Goods (Toronto): food waste solutions provider that enables Canadian businesses to transform spent barley from craft breweries into delicious foods that can then be sold in grocery stores, markets, schools, and restaurants.

Abokichi Inc. (Hamilton): a Japanese inspired food brand that develops innovative and unique products using upcycled ingredients.

Quinta Local Superfoods Inc. (Guelph/Eramosa): superfood company that supplies high nutrient quinoa, which it will be providing to communities in need while reducing emissions and implementing sustainable packaging alternatives.

Green Table Foods (Guelph): manufactures plant-based, certified organic probiotic foods using upcycled ingredients and other waste reduction techniques.

Heartwood Farm & Cidery (Acton): a family-owned regenerative farm and cidery offering immersive onsite experiences and craft beverages, including a new line of non-alcoholic beverages.