Harvest Genomics Tops Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch Competition

Chris Grainger of Harvest Genomics and Jane Ong of NeopPhoto Foods stand outside the Research Innovation Office

Chris Grainger of Harvest Genomics (left) and Jane Ong of NeoPhyto Foods (Kyle Rodriguez, Artifacts for Life Photography)

A start-up company dedicated to deploying DNA technology to the agricultural industry has won the second annual innovation showcase and pitch competition run by Gryphon’s LAAIR (Leading to the Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research) at the University of Guelph.

The Dragons’ Den-style event, hosted by U of G’s Research Innovation Office, saw five teams of U of G agri-food innovators presenting their products, ideas and services in five-minute pitches to a panel of industry judges.

Harvest Genomics was chosen as the $10,000 grand prize winner. The company provides a range of genetic testing and analysis for growers, including rapid testing for herbicide resistance and invasive pest identification.

“We are thrilled to have been selected the winning pitch in this year’s LAAIR competition,” said Chris Grainger, CEO of Harvest Genomics.

“Given the extraordinary challenges facing entrepreneurs currently, having a platform such as this is crucial for making people aware of the innovative start-ups that can help be a part of creating new jobs for a recovering economy.”

Neophyto Foods, which makes plant-based cheese products, was chosen as the people’s choice winner and received $7,000 to invest in growth.

The three other competitors were awarded $1,000 each: Green Feet Ecosystem Services, Psigryph Inc. and emendWELL Inc.

The pitch competition, which helps share with the public the real-world impact U of G innovators have on the Ontario economy, was held completely online this year for nearly 500 webinar viewers who voted for the people’s choice prize.

The judges of the grand prize were Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada; Joe Dales, president of agriculture and food innovation at RH Accelerator Inc.; and Fred Wall, VP marketing for Farm Credit Canada.

The event is funded through the University’s Research Innovation Office as part of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

Since its debut in 2014, the larger Gryphon’s LAAIR program has awarded $500,000 annually to develop and bring products to market. Malcolm Campbell, U of G vice-president (research), said Gryphon’s LAAIR has helped U of G researchers launch several innovations into the marketplace.

“Having supported more than 70 projects that included 60 industry partners, Gryphon’s LAAIR funding has turned University knowledge into valuable outputs that have generated many new enterprises, enhanced business productivity, created jobs, and improved prosperity and people’s lives,” he said.

The competition is available on demand on the Research Innovation Office’s YouTube page.