Canadian meat processing technology development challenge

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

AAFC is launching a challenge to develop new technologies in the Canadian Meat Processing industry.

Challenge sponsor: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

Funding mechanism: Grant

Opening date: December 18, 2020
Closing date: January 13, 2021, 14:00 Eastern Standard Time

Prospective applicants should refer to the Grant Instructions and Procedures document.

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Challenge

Problem statement

The Canadian meat processing (primary and secondary) industries for beef, hog, and poultry is evolving constantly in requirements to ensure safe and efficient work environments for its labour force, and to increase operational efficiencies and maintain food safety standards.  Innovation is paramount to support this sector. AAFC is launching a challenge to develop new technologies to meet these evolving industry requirements.

Meat processing plants rely heavily on manual labour, and are challenging environments, cold with high humidity levels to manage effectively. Yet, we rely on these facilities to transform animals into protein for human consumption. Technical innovation provides opportunities to improve the operational efficiency and safety of workers in meat processing facilities where people and machines often interact. 

This challenge seeks to support technological innovation within all forms (primary and secondary) of meat(protein) processing facilities that will introduce new automated advances to existing processing formats, regardless of processing plant or abattoir size, while addressing increased safety measures for workers, maintaining food quality levels, as well as abiding by food safety regulations.

Proposed technologies must include advances in automation through robotics, artificial intelligence, or other forms of innovation that are scalable and suitable to each sub-sector within the processing industry, such as stunning, slaughtering; butchering; grading; cutting; and packaging. 

Desired outcomes and considerations

Essential (mandatory) outcomes

Proposed solutions must:

  1. Allow meat processors to integrate alternative or non-traditional methods of re-engineering current meat processing tasks, whether single worker task or multi worker tasked processes, leading to increased productivity, profitability or worker safety.
  2. Introduce a technology that utilizes automation through robotics, artificial intelligence or other advanced features.
  3. Integrate technology that is capable of running in meat processing plants considering all types of environmental conditions related to humidity and temperature.
  4. Ensure the new technology adheres to all regulations (federal or provincial) connected to worker health and safety standards including new COVID-related protocols in meat processing facilities.

Additional outcomes

Proposed solutions should:

  1. Increase accessibility, meaning that meat processing facilities regardless of scale can purchase and implement the technology in a method that is not financially prohibitive.

Background and context

Certain complexities exist within the return on investment (ROI) models in new technology adoption in meat processing. Plant size constraints or footprint requirements in technology adoption face each processing facility from local abattoirs to the largest processing facilities in Canada. Single worker tasks potentially yield the least return on ROI investments, yet are contrasted against the greater facility and supply chain risks in the Canadian meat processing sector. Advances in these technologies, whether simple or complex, are needed. 

Recent COVID-related shutdowns warrant technological improvements across the sector. Canadian meat processing consists of beef, hog, and poultry processing facilities across Canada. These plants can be provincial- or federally-licensed facilities. The diversity in facility size is significant, ranging from few employees to thousands. Canada's meat processing companies and abattoirs manufacture a wide variety of meat products ranging from fresh and frozen meat to processed, smoked, canned and cooked meats, as well as sausage and deli meats. About 70% of processed meats in Canada, such as sausages or cold cuts, are made with pork. Canada's red meat industry includes beef and veal, pork, lamb and mutton, goat, rabbit, horse, as well as venison and bison. The red meat industry had annual shipments worth $22.3 billion in 2019.In 2019, Canada's commercial chicken and turkey meat production totaled 1.45 billion kilograms, eviscerated equivalent. In 2019, Canadian meat product manufacturing (NAICS 3116) sector consisted of 1,007 plants with greater than 80% categorized with less than 100 employees and exported $8.6 billion in goods.

Maximum grant value and travel

Multiple grants could result from this Challenge.

Phase 1:

  • The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 Grant resulting from this Challenge is : $150,000.00 CAD
  • The maximum duration for any Phase 1 project funded by a grant resulting from this Challenge is up to 6 months
  • Estimated number of Phase 1 grants: 2

Phase 2:

  • The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 Grant resulting from this Challenge is : $1,000,000.00 CAD
  • The maximum duration for any Phase 2 project funded by a grant resulting from this Challenge is up to 24 months
    • Note: Only eligible businesses that have completed Phase 1 could be considered for Phase 2.
  • Estimated number of Phase 2 grants: 1

Note: Selected companies are eligible to receive one grant per phase per challenge.  

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any grant for the total approximate funding. Final decisions on the number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards will be made by Canada on the basis of factors such as evaluation results, departmental priorities and availability of funds. Canada reserves the right to make partial awards and to negotiate project scope changes.

Travel

No travel is anticipated.

Kick-off meeting

Teleconference/videoconference

Progress review meeting(s)

Teleconference/videoconference

Final review meeting

Teleconference/videoconference

All other communication can take place by telephone, videoconference, and WebEx.

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Evaluation criteria

The applicant must complete the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form with a degree of information sufficient to enable Canada's assessment of the proposal against the criteria and the Evaluation Schema. The information must demonstrate how the proposal meets the criterion.

Part 1: Mandatory Criteria

Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria identified by achieving a "Pass" in order to proceed to Part 2. Proposals that do not meet all mandatory criteria will be deemed non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Mandatory Criteria

(Applicant's proposal must address)

Question 1 a: Scope

Describe the proposed solution and demonstrate how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which the solution is proposed and clearly demonstrate how the solution meets all of the Essential (Mandatory) Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice.

Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Applicant's proposed solution is clearly articulated, within the scope for the challenge and addresses all Essential (Mandatory) Outcomes (if identified) in the Challenge Notice.

Fail

The proposed solution is articulated as out of scope for the challenge.
OR
The proposal does not clearly demonstrate how the proposed solution addresses all Essential Outcomes listed in the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is poorly described and does not permit concrete analysis.
OR
There is little to no scientific and/or technological evidence that the proposed solution is likely to meet the challenge.

Question 2: Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
  • Indicate the current TRL of the proposed solution. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
  • Describe the research and development activities that have taken place to bring the proposed solution to the stated TRL.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass: The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 6 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail: The Applicant has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 6 (inclusive) including:

  • There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  • The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  • The solution is demonstrated at TRL 7 or higher.
  • Insufficient/unclear/no justification explaining the R&D that took place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
  • The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.
Question 3a: Innovation

Demonstrate how the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation below:

  • An inventionFootnote *, new technology or new process that is not currently available in the marketplace.
  • Significant modifications to the application of existing technologies/components/processes that are applied in a setting or condition for which current applications are not possible or feasible.
  • An improvement in functionality, cost or performance over an existing technology/process that is considered state-of-the-art or the current industry best practice.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass:

The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation.

Fail:

  • Applicant has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the proposed solution meets any of the ISC definitions of innovation; OR
  • Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution is an incremental improvement, "good engineering", or a technology that would go ahead in the normal course of product development (i.e. the next version or release).
Question 3b: Advance on State of the Art

Describe in detail the competitive advantages and level of advancement over existing technologies. Where appropriate, name existing technologies as well as potential substitutes or competitors.

To demonstrate this, proposals should include the following information:

  • Improvements (minor or major) over existing technologies or substitutes. Use direct comparison.
  • How the proposed innovation will create competitive advantages in existing market niches or market spaces.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory Criteria — Pass/Fail + Points)

0 points/Fail:

  • The Applicant has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR
  • The proposed solution improves minimally upon the current state of the art, though not sufficiently enough to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.

5 points/Pass:

  • The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches.

12 points/Pass:

  • The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches

20 points/Pass:

  • The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
  • The Applicant has demonstrated that the proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces

Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria

Proposals must meet the overall minimum pass mark of 50% to be deemed responsive. Proposals that do not achieve the minimum pass mark will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Point-Rated Criteria

(Applicant's proposal to address)

Question 1b: Scope

Demonstrate the scientific and technological basis of how the proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes(if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice. If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, text entered in this section will not be considered.

If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Applicants will receive 10 points.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the solution will address any of the Additional Outcomes. 0 points
  2. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address some (<50%) of the Additional Outcomes. 3 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address most (50% or more) of the Additional Outcomes. 6 points
  4. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address all (100%) of the Additional Outcomes. 10 points
Question 4: Phase 1 Science and Technology (S&T) Risks

Describe potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 5: Phase 1 Project Plan

Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

  • Indicate if any milestones and activities will be completed concurrently
  • Indicate the estimated exit TRL at the completion of Phase 1. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate a feasible project plan for Phase 1 and/or the project plan exceeds the maximum duration indicated in the Challenge Notice. 0 points
  2. Project plan for Phase 1 is conceivably feasible but not clearly demonstrated and/or includes gaps. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates a feasible project plan for Phase 1. 20 points
Question 6: Phase 1 Project Risks

Describe potential project risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Applicants should address the following risks, as applicable:

  • Human Resources
  • Financial
  • Project Management
  • Intellectual Property
  • Other project-related risks

Note to Applicants: S&T risks should not be included in this section. Question 4 addresses S&T risks.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 7: Phase 1 Implementation Team

Demonstrate how the project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but there are minor gaps in required management and/or technological skill sets and/or experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 20 points
Question 8: Inclusivity

If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution. Each Applicant in their response to this question must focus only on describing relevant programs, policies, or initiatives that it currently has in place or would put in place to support the R&D effort in Phase 1.

Note: Do not provide any personal information of individuals employed by your company or that of your subcontractors in the response.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. No description and/or concrete examples of actions provided that would be taken to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups. 0 points
  2. A description and concrete examples of actions to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups provided.5 points
Question 9: Phase 1 Financial Proposal

Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient information provided and/or information provided significantly lack credibility. Does not demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but some costs lack credibility and/or are unclear for the Phase 1 project plan. 7.5 points
  3. Information provided contains credible elements to clearly demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 15 points
Question 10: Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight

Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1. Applicants should indicate if an individual or firm will be managing the public funds and provide their credentials and/or relevant experience.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate the Applicant's ability to manage public funds in Phase 1. 0 points
  2. Information provided is vague and/or contains gaps. The Applicant has some controls, tracking and/or oversight in place to manage the public funds in Phase 1. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant has strong financial controls, tracking and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1. 10 points
Question 11: Phase 2 Overview

Demonstrate a realistic overview for the prototype development plan if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Responses should include:

  • key tasks
  • estimated cost for materials
  • human resources
  • project risks and mitigation strategies

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant has contemplated a realistic overview for the Phase 2 prototype development. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates a conceivably realistic overview for Phase 2 prototype development, however there are gaps and/or the strategy is vague. 6 points
  3. Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant has a clear and realistic overview. 12 points
Question 12: Commercialization Approach

Demonstrate a realistic overall commercialization approach/business model that can successfully take the technology/service to market, and how the technology/service will help you develop and sell other products.

Responses should include:

  • Target markets (excluding Government of Canada)
  • Non-ISC funding sources
  • Transition to a commercially-ready product or service
  • Any other indicators of commercial potential and commercial feasibility

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 0 points
  2. Some information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential, however there are gaps in the commercialization approach. 6 points
  3. A realistic commercialization approach is provided that demonstrates that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 12 points
Question 13: Resulting Benefits to Canada

Describe the benefits that could result from the commercialization of the proposed solution. Applicants should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories and provide justification for each claim:

  • Innovation Benefits: Expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations within your firm. Responses could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
  • Economic Benefits: Forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Responses could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, investment in Canada's economy, etc.
  • Public Benefits: Expected contribution to the broader public to the degree that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Responses could include: solution-related environmental benefits, solution-related accessibility benefits, and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Innovation Benefits

    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points

    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point

    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points

  2. Economic Benefits

    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points

    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point

    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points

  3. Public Benefits.

    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points

    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point

    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points

Questions and answers

All incoming questions regarding this specific challenge should be addressed to solutions@canada.ca.

All enquiries must be submitted in writing no later than ten calendar days before the Challenge Notice closing date. Enquiries received after that time may not be answered.

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

A glossary is also available.

I would like to know whether an industrial biotechnology solution specifically developed for the meat industry in order to eliminate or reduce microbial contamination, which is a mayor cause of food waste will be considered. Our solution does not consider the use of automation.

Thank you for your interest in the Innovative Solutions Canada Canadian meat processing technology development challenge.

The intent of the challenge is to include automation in a proposed solution.

All applicants are encouraged to review the Innovative Solutions Canada Grant Instructions and Procedures document and in particular Part 4 - Evaluation procedures, proposal selection and grant award. You are welcome to submit a proposal in response to the challenge.

The sponsoring department, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), wishes to inform you that if food waste is the target of your proposal then you may wish to consider submitting a proposal to the AAFC program entitled "Food Waste reduction Challenge" as a more viable option.

Would a technology that automates an aspect of food safety be considered?

Yes.

Can a SME enterprise submit a project if they partially owned by a larger enterprise?

Applicants must respect the eligibility requirements as identified in the Innovative Solutions Canada Grant Instructions and Procedures document, specifically section 1.4 (Who can submit a grant funded proposal). If a larger enterprise owns more than 50% of the enterprise submitting the proposal, then employees and senior executives of that larger company will be added to the employees of the company submitting the proposal to determine if the eligibility requirements are met.

For each phase, is the company obligated to invest a minimum amount of money equivalent to a percentage of the grant obtained? Or they just submit a budget of their project and they can be awarded the grant if their project is selected?

The program does not require co-investment.  The steps and procedures associated with proposal evaluation and project selection are identified in Part 4 - Evaluation procedures, proposal selection and grant award in the Innovative Solutions Canada Grant Instructions and Procedures document.

I do understand that an existing technology but with new food applications can be accepted?

Yes – it can be an application of technology in a setting or condition where it is currently not feasible, or an improvement in functionality, cost, or performance. We encourage you to review Question 3a (Innovation) by clicking on the Evaluation Criteria tab.

Is it only one technology or it can be a combination of technologies?

The submission can be one or a combination of technologies. The project plan should include a fulsome description of each if multiple technologies are proposed.

Automation: it must be one of these three and not all three combines? (robotics, AI, or other advanced features)

The solution may address one or a combination of these advances in its solution.  In terms of automation, the examples are listed as reference only and could include any other technology or technologies to address the challenge.

Any chance that the closing date might be extended, since we are during Christmas holidays and also since we are in a COVID-19 situation?

The challenge date is as posted. The sponsoring department remains committed to reviewing submissions from applicants to facilitate normal business activity to the best of its ability.

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