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Summer-quality, Canadian-grown strawberries in January

When it comes to buying fresh fruit like strawberries, Canadians are largely vulnerable to global food supply chains, which can break down in a matter of weeks. This became very clear to families trying to keep fresh food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ceragen, a company at Velocity, University of Waterloo's startup incubator, has developed probiotics for plants to improve crop yields by up to 20 percent, and the company is participating in the Homegrown Innovation Challenge, a research challenge funded by the Weston Family Foundation. The challenge aims to increase Canadian food security by increasing production growth domestically. Ceragen's project group just received $1 million to optimize several aspects of domestic indoor strawberry production, including preserving the summer-quality strawberry taste.

"Our team's goal is to optimize indoor strawberry production to facilitate year-round, local production at cost parity with imported strawberries," said Danielle Rose, Ceragen's co-founder and CEO. "Canada imports 80 percent of our produce, so we are susceptible to supply chain interruptions, and improving Canadian production and supporting local production can ensure that the customer gets better quality produce in a safe manner."

Ceragen joined Velocity shortly after the company was established in 2021. Chief technology officer Matthew Rose said Velocity has been instrumental in advancing the company's business operations, including the development of its initial products.

"From world-class mentorship to access to financing to some of the best lab resources available for startups in North America — Velocity has been instrumental in Ceragen's success to date," Rose said. "It would have taken our team significantly longer to go to market without access to laboratory equipment and facilities provided by Velocity, so we are really privileged to have access to such an amazing resource right here in Kitchener-Waterloo."


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