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Seneca graduates’ futuristic farm project wins $5,000 in provincial innovation contest

Toronto - November 27, 2017 – A unique proposal by Seneca graduates that aims to revolutionize farming has won the $5,000 second prize in the Ontario colleges’ William G. Davis Innovation Fund contest.

Steven Bourne (left) and Brandon Hebor proudly show off their first aquaponics crops at Ripple Farms.

“Using innovative technologies, this project could one day give all communities access to healthy food – no matter where they are in the world,” said Seneca President David Agnew. “What this team has done is remarkable and a perfect example of the real-world solutions created by Seneca graduates.”

The proposal was created by Ripple Farms, a pilot project established by Steven Bourne, Brandon Hebor and Sam Chow, graduates of Seneca’s Green Business Management graduate certificate program. The second-place win was announced Sunday at the Higher Education Summit in Toronto.

Ripple Farms’ project grows plants using recirculated water that have been fertilized by fish. Its two-storey growing unit, which is the size of a small trailer, combines a fish farm on the first level and an aquaponics growing bed on the second floor in a closed system with almost no waste.

“The support we received from all departments at Seneca College – from their facilities to the college’s incubator HELIX, to the executives and everyone in between – really helped make this project a success,” said Brandon Hebor, a co-founder of Ripple Farms. “We’re really pleased with the interest and enthusiasm we’ve received for Ripple Farms and we have high hopes for the future.”

Ripple Farms has two urban farming units in operation, including one at Seneca’s Newnham Campus, with plans for expansion. The team plans to scale operations to a 10,000 square foot facility, which will produce 50,000 units of fresh produce per month, amounting to roughly 250,000 lbs. of produce per year.

Ripple Farms has also been recognized internationally. It was a winner at the 2017 European Innovation Academy in Portugal and was selected as a Canadian representative at the 2017 Youth Agriculture Summit in Brussels.

“Truly, our expectations for this contest were outmatched by the high quality of the submissions we received from teams like Ripple Farms,” said Fred Gibbons, the chair of Colleges Ontario and president and CEO of Northern College. “This forward-looking proposal demonstrates the bold vision today’s college graduates offer the community and workplace.”

The William G. Davis Innovation Fund launched in February as part of the celebration of the Ontario colleges’ 50th anniversary. As a tribute to the former premier’s bold vision in creating Ontario’s college system, the fund encouraged students and alumni across Ontario to submit innovative and creative proposals that competed for cash prizes.

Eighty-three proposals were submitted from across the province. In October, 10 semi-finalists were announced as determined by a panel of experts and through online voting. The top two submissions were judged earlier this month and announced Sunday.

DSW Cooperative, a proposal submitted by graduates of Algonquin College in Ottawa was awarded the $15,000 first-place prize. Their proposal aims to improve developmental services for people with disabilities.

The judging panel that selected the final winners were:

  • Karl Baldauf, vice president, policy and government relations, Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • Nathalie Cook, president, Cimoroni & Co.
  • Ian Howcroft, senior vice president, provincial operations and corporate counsel at Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
  • Tyler Epp, manager, alumni relations and events, Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology
  • Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, office of research services, innovation and entrepreneurship, Durham College
  • Joel Willett, president, College Student Alliance

Judges assessed the candidates’ applications based on criteria that included the idea’s impact and originality, the sustainability of the project, its likelihood of success, and the number of votes it received online.

The Higher Education Summit is an annual high-powered event that explores the top issues affecting postsecondary education. Highlights include featured remarks from world-renowned leaders and educators, and networking opportunities at the most senior level. The 2017 conference runs Nov. 26 and 27 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.

For more information about the William G. Davis Innovation Fund, go to:


With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough, Seneca offers degrees, diplomas, certificates and graduate programs renowned for their quality and respected by employers. It is one of the largest comprehensive colleges in Canada, offering nearly 300 full-time, part-time and online programs. Combining the highest academic standards with work-integrated and applied learning, expert teaching faculty and the latest technology ensure Seneca graduates are career-ready.

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For more information:

Lisa Pires
Seneca Media Relations
416-491-5050 ext. 77018