Clean Eating

i.d.e.a. Fund™ Companies Focus on Sustainability, Taking a Bite Out of Food Waste

By: Jen Brignall-Strong

As the global population continues to grow, so does the demand for food.

Over the past several years, the food and beverage industry has been under immense pressure to not only keep up with these increased requirements but to also do so in a more sustainable way, producing and processing larger quantities of food while simultaneously mitigating its environmental impact.

So how can the sector do more while minimizing its carbon footprint? In an effort to solve some of our society’s most pressing food-related issues, a dynamic group of entrepreneurs in the second WEtech Alliance-supported cohort of the i.d.e.a. Fund program have taken up that challenge, creating a variety of low-carbon, sustainable products and innovative processes aimed at reducing food waste, carbon emissions and single use plastics.

The i.d.e.a. Fund, a southern Ontario-focused initiative, helps clean innovation firms unlock their potential and access the capital and mentoring needed to commercialize innovative technologies.

The program fosters inclusion, diversity, environment and acceleration while contributing to a green economic recovery. Supported by a $10-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) the i.d.e.a. Fund is being delivered by six regional innovation centres (RICs): Boundless Accelerator, Haltech, Innovate Niagara, Innovation Factory, Tech Alliance of Southwestern Ontario and WEtech Alliance.

Through the program, each RIC is able to distribute a maximum of $30,000 in matching seed funding to select innovative businesses in various sectors including medtech, agritech, social enterprise, advanced manufacturing, and more.

“Canada’s growing green technology sector is solving complex problems while creating jobs. Our government is encouraged to see the promising companies that the i.d.e.a. Fund is supporting,” says the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “The innovations that Canadian companies are bringing to the table will help Canadians lead healthier and more prosperous lives. It is critical that we continue to support businesses that provide positive, sustainable solutions.”

Since the launch of the program in May 2022, WEtech Alliance has been able to provide $1.2 million of seed funding to 40 businesses in the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent areas and beyond.

“Our federal government continues to proudly partner with WEtech Alliance to support the next generation of innovators and job creators in our community through the I.D.E.A Fund,” said Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament Windsor—Tecumseh.

While the second cohort features early-stage developers from across a broad spectrum of industries, WEtech’s i.d.e.a. Fund program coordinator Susy Kustra said she noticed this year’s group included a large cluster of companies focused on the food production sector.

“It’s interesting that nearly half of the companies in the program are in the food and food storage industry,” says Kustra.

“We have companies like u10sils and Dalcini Stainless, whose focus is recyclable, stainless-steel kitchenware and utensils to combat the issue of single use plastics,” she continues. “On the other end of the spectrum, we have CarbonOne, which has created a cutting-edge software platform that accurately measures the carbon footprint of food and beverage products, helping to bring clarity and transparency to the industry.”

Kustra notes there are also several companies in the plant-based foods sector including Choose Life Foods, which produces plant-based, vegan Jamaican patties that eliminate the need for resource-intensive, high methane gas producing beef.

“These are just a few examples of the projects funded by the i.d.e.a. Fund program that are helping us progress towards a more sustainable, green economy,” she adds.

In addition to funding, the program also provides specialized industry expertise to develop growth plans and related strategies in areas such as talent attraction, raising follow-on investment, product development and quantification of product benefits/market value propositions, commercialization of intellectual property and market diversification.

Camille Kennedy, an experienced marketer who specializes in B2B and B2C marketing for tech startups, is one such industry expert, lending her years of knowledge to help i.d.e.a. Fund companies with everything from ROI driving marketing and sales tactics to strategic business growth. Like Kustra, Kennedy says she is impressed by the work she’s seen from Cohort 2 participants.

“The work WEtech is doing with i.d.e.a. Fund in the green recovery space is incredible. The quality and calibre of companies that are participating in the program are unmatched,” says Kennedy. “Every food and beverage company I’ve had the benefit of mentoring and coaching through i.d.e.a. Fund is a change-maker and doing something progressive and novel in the space—something worth talking about.”

For example, says Kennedy, Ag-Tronic Control Systems Inc.

“Its best-in-class paper-based fruit sticker (Accu-Label) is helping divert compost loads from ending up in the landfill,” she shares. “The company recently received the very first acceptance of any label into the compost, by Compost Manufacturing Alliance.”

Biofect is another amazing company, she adds, with a very tangible and affordable solution to the sugar epidemic. The company is leveraging precision fermentation by combining modern biotechnology with traditional fermentation to sustainably produce super sweet protein alternatives, like Brazzein, at scale. 

Other Cohort 2 i.d.e.a. Fund companies in the food space include Alborz Fine Foods, which has developed an IoT/machine learning based technology to change any regular commercial fridge and freezer into a “smart” one, reducing food spoilage, as well as Happy Era, specializing in high-protein, low-sugar muffin mixes made from up-cycled barley protein.

There’s also Ardra, notes Kustra, which makes novel food ingredients to address major challenges in the emerging food industry. Its ingredients target problems of taste and nutrition in multibillion dollar markets such as plant-based meats and nutritional beverages. The underlying technology is based on precision fermentation, where its proprietary patented microbes convert sugars into high-value ingredients, like animal-free heme, which the company is using to deliver meaty taste to plant-based products.

“Companies like these are progressing in food innovation in Canada, with the help of much-needed innovation dollars from programs like i.d.e.a. Fund,” says Kennedy.

While there have been plenty of exciting developments from these i.d.e.a. Fund ‘foodpreneurs’, Kustra points out that the rest of the cohort is also making significant advancements in everything from sustainable fashion to cosmetics, home care products and autonomous services.

In addition to those in the food industry, WEtech’s second i.d.e.a. Fund cohort includes 12 other businesses across a variety of sectors: Carbon Neutral Club, Dreams Jumper, Everyday Chemist, Guests on Earth, Lazlo Energy Services, Kevaras Autonomous Services, Osmosis Glow, Picsume, Prisum Coatings Canada, Steadiwear, SwapWear and RealTime7.

To discover more about i.d.e.a. Fund, visit

To learn more about FedDev Ontario, visit