Smart Cities Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) initiative leading to innovative solutions that reduce waste and fight climate change
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.
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.
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.
Executive Director, Smart Cities Office
Office of the CAO, City of Guelph
Office of the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario