Obi Veterinary Education founder Dr. Ryan Appleby accepts a cheque as the grand prize winner (Photo: Kyle Rodriguez)

An online continuing education community for veterinary professionals has won the $10,000 grand prize in the Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch Competition at the University of Guelph.

Obi Veterinary Education, which offers online “micro-learning” opportunities to veterinarians to help them improve their professional skills, was selected as the big winner of the event. The subscription-based service offers short, digestible lessons that can be accessed in the care room if required.

DigiTrack Systems Inc., which develops cloud-based software for food and agricultural product recalls to connect manufacturers, distributors and merchants, won the $2,500 people’s choice prize.

The Gryphon’s LAAIR (Leading to the Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research) Pitch Competition is organized by U of G’s Research Innovation Office in partnership with the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and U of G.

The competition showcases promising agri-tech concepts and helps them scale up by encouraging partnerships with industry, government, investors and others. It sees select teams of U of G agri-food innovators present products, ideas and services in five-minute pitches to a panel of industry judges.

The event was held during Canadian Innovation Week to celebrate innovators connected to U of G who are developing products and services based on research.

“The Gryphon’s LAAIR program launches U of G researchers’ innovations into the marketplace for the benefit of the people of Ontario,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

Two men in suits hold a small glass trophy together
Mohammad Khodabakhshi (left) and Amir Namavar Jahromi of DigiTrack Systems Inc., accept the people’s choice prize. (Photo: Kyle Rodriguez)

Noting that the program has supported more than 70 projects involving 60 industry partners since 2014, he said, “It has transformed our researchers’ knowledge into valuable outputs that have generated new enterprises, enhanced business productivity, created jobs, grown the economy, and improved prosperity and people’s lives.”

The three other pitch teams in the competition were Astra Redex Inc., which builds portable sanitation systems to disinfect everything from phones to fruit; BioFerm Functional Foods Inc., which creates nutrient-packed, dry baking mixes; and Guelph Petrographic Imaging, which provides geological data for agriculture, energy and mining.

Each was awarded $1,500 to further market their innovations into commercially viable products.

“Congratulations to the remarkable innovators who competed in this year’s Gryphon’s LAAIR pitch competition,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Our government is proud to invest in an initiative that helps spur improvements in animal, human, plant and environmental health and advances research for the greater benefit of Ontario’s agri-food sector.”

For the first time, pitch videos were released ahead of the competition as part of the Research Innovation Festival. Viewers voted for the people’s choice award, and the competition finale and awards presentation were broadcast live on Wednesday, May 19, with host Dan Clapson, founder and creative director of EatNorth and Globe and Mail restaurant critic and columnist for the Canadian Prairies.

“This year’s Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch Competition featured five founders with valuable propositions that have the potential to disrupt within their sectors,” said Dana McCauley, director of new venture creation at the Research Innovation Office.

“A key reason these innovators cite for participating in our event is to attract the collaborators – funders, market test partners and customers — who can help them to quickly progress toward acceleration.”

Watch the pitches again on the Research Innovation Office’s YouTube page.


Dana McCauley