Market Access Grant Stream

Demand for Ontario food has never been stronger, with consumers applying pressure on retail, institutional, and foodservice operators to have more local and regional options available. In order to meet this demand at a competitive price, Ontario’s agri-food industry needs to find efficient and cost-effective ways of bringing more of Ontario’s diverse, high-quality products to these markets.

Regional aggregators and value-added service providers (often referred to as “food hubs”) are proliferating across North America as a feasible option for providing efficient local and regional value chain linkages to small and medium-sized farmers and processors. Given market trends, these services are instrumental in getting these smaller enterprises access to mainstream foodservice and retail markets.

The Market Access Grant Stream aims to build on these trends by providing funding to identify and capitalize on existing market opportunities through the development of local food aggregation, co-packing, and distribution capacity, and enhancing the availability of processing and value-add services for Ontario farmers.


The Market Access Grant Stream focuses on increasing market access for farmers and processors in order to increase local food choices. Its goals are:

  1. To increase the amount of Ontario food products purchased by Ontario’s retailers, wholesalers, foodservice operators via local food aggregators and local processors.

  2. To increase farmers’ and processors’ access to new market channels through increased knowledge of supply chain requirements, enhanced access to aggregation services, and value added local food processing.

Areas of Focus 

There are three areas of focus, outlined below:

  1. Regional Aggregation and Food Hubs - Assist in the development and growth of food hubs and regional aggregators, increasing the number of farmers that have access to retail, wholesale, foodservice, and farmers’ markets

  2. Value Added Local Food Processing - Encourage the development and growth of products made with Ontario ingredients, strengthen value chain relationships, and enhance the competitiveness of Ontario’s food processing sector
    • Support the acceleration of growth of food processors by strengthening organizations that provide food incubation, acceleration, and commercialization services

  3. New and Emerging Markets - Assist with business intelligence, networking, and relationship building tools to assist new and emerging markets scale up and access multiple market channels

  4. Regional and Rural Economic Development - Support NGOs, municipalities, and their institutional and food value chain partners build the regional agri-food economy by undertaking priority impactful actions

Some examples of activities that could form parts of a project include: 

  • Conducting a market assessment for new and emerging markets to better understand potential and to develop strategies
  • Conducting market research and business planning to strengthen aggregators’, food hubs’, and local food processors’ ability to compete in the marketplace
  • Expanding aggregation and distribution services to enable more Ontario farmers to sell to wholesale, foodservice, and/or retail markets
  • Increasing the capacity for value-added processing of Ontario-grown or raised products, including services such as chopping, washing, freezing contract processing, canning, dry goods assembly, and dehydration
  • Improving the ‘market readiness’ of Ontario-grown or raised food by enhancing capacity in terms of consistency of product characteristics, food safety certification, and/or packaging
  • Developing training and education resources that help agriculture and local food businesses gain entry into the marketplace
  • Investing in farmers ready to diversify on-farm production by completing small-plot experimental testing to grow, harvest, and/or process world crops and develop value-added products
  • Supporting existing food incubators and accelerators to scale-up services and offerings, facilitate collaboration between incubators and accelerators to reduce duplicate efforts and avoid silo-work, and/or support the development of an industry-led strategy to support SMEs through incubation, acceleration and commercialization
  • Building municipal capacity to help identify and reduce local regulatory barriers for farmers and agri-food entrepreneurs, support Agri-Food Community Improvement Plans, etc.


Sagal Dualeh
Program Manager (A)
Greenbelt Fund

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