Growing companies and innovation from the ground up

Cluster Description

Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe is home to one of the largest food, beverage, and farming clusters in North America. The region’s superb agricultural land is complemented by a moderate climate and access to an abundant supply of fresh water. The one million acres of farmland under production within the boundaries of the region generate in excess of $1.5 billion in gross farm receipts annually from a production profile that includes 200 different agricultural commodities.

Half of Ontario’s food processors are also located in the Golden Horseshoe cluster. Food processing businesses in the region now employ more workers than the auto industry and are the main economic driver of the region.  The Census Metropolitan Area of Toronto generates in excess of $17 billion worth of food processing sales and employs over 60,000 individuals.

Industry employers, innovators, researchers, and collaborators have built a stellar reputation for reliable, sustainable sources of agricultural raw materials, state-of-the-art automated food processing and world-class food safety standards

A rich endowment of soil, water resources and infrastructure combined with access to a large diverse market, an outstanding and diverse educated labour force, and strong research capabilities are among the advantages that stand to propel this innovative cluster forward.

Why you should attend

  • Visit a wide variety of organizations, including an incubator that helps scale startups, a medium-sized food manufacturer, a dairy farm, and a craft cidery and farm.

  • Learn how companies are scaling up their businesses with the help of incubators, small business development training, support from talented labour, educational institutions, and governments at all levels.

  • See the innovation and technology used to produce a variety of food and food products.


See below for dress code.

07:45 AM
Gather in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel Toronto

08:00-08:30 AM
Board a coach bus and head to Food Starter, a non-profit organization that helps early-stage food processors commercialize and scale the development of their food products. On the way, learn about the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance - why it was formed, who is involved, and what its goals are. 

08:30-09:30 AM
Incubation and small business development in the cluster

At Food Starter, you will:

  • Tour Food Starter’s facilities, which include kitchens (e.g., salads and condiments, catering and food truck), a commercial bakery, a packaging area, and a wash down area.

  • Meet 3 of Food Starter’s clients that use the facility to develop and market their products. You will also get to try a few samples!

  • Learn how colleges and innovation hubs support the training of small business food and beverage companies.

09:30-10:00 AM
Travel to Ozery Bakery, a bakery that distributes its alternative bread products across North America. On the way there, hear about how the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) assists food companies to export their products.

10:00-11:00 AM
Food manufacturing for domestic and export markets

At Ozery Bakery, you will:

  • Tour the facilities and see how bread products are made.

  • Learn how Ozery Bakery transformed itself from a sandwich shop to international bakery from Alon Ozery, the son of the bakery’s founder and now co-president overseeing research and development.

  • Try some delicious samples of fresh baked bread!

11:00-11:45 AM
Travel to Spirit Tree Cidery, a working culinary tourism apple farm, cidery, and food service facility. Along the way, hear from Evergreen Brickworks about their work to make Toronto a market city.

11:45-01:15 PM
Culinary tourism and Ontario craft cidery production in a regulated climate

At Spirit Tree Cidery, you will:

  • Tour the Spirit Tree Apple Farm and Cidery.

  • Learn about culinary tourism and how Spirit Tree manages to maintain a working farm and production facility on the border of urban sprawl. Planning and infrastructure requirements along with zoning issues will be discussed.

  • Have lunch with your fellow delegates.

  • Participate in a mini-charrette focused on marketing a food cluster.

Note: You will be able to purchase Ontario ciders from the farm store. 

01:15-01:45 PM
Travel to Castle Dale Farms, a Canadian dairy farm. 

01:45-02:30 PM
Innovation and technology and food safety in the primary production of milk in Ontario

At Castle Dale Farms, you will:

  • Tour the Farm and see their dairy production.

  • Learn how Castle Dale Farms uses innovation and technology to maximize food production and safety and modernize milking procedures.

02:30-03:30 PM
Travel back to the Chelsea Hotel Toronto and Rotman School of Management. On the way back, learn about the retail and food service trends in Ontario.

Dress code

  • Please do not wear jewellery, loose clothing, or open toe shoes. Running shoes are preferred.

  • Please do not bring any valuables. During the plant tours, valuables will be left on the coach bus.

  • Bring an umbrella in case it rains.

Meet your Organizers


Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance is a partnership between the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, the Friends of the Greenbelt, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the regional municipalities and Federations of Agriculture in Niagara, Peel, Halton, York, and Durham, and the cities of Hamilton and Toronto. In 2012, the GHFFA released the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Action Plan 2021, which identifies pathways for a more integrated and coordinated approach to food and farming viability in the area to ensure that the Golden Horseshoe retains, enhances and expands its role as a leading food and farming cluster.

The City of Toronto’s Sector Development Office is the City’s lead for supporting key sectors of Toronto. Its mission is to advance competitiveness and vitality in the key sectors, based on its strategic knowledge and expertise. Its team of economic development professionals is committed to collaborating with businesses and partners to maximize business growth and overcome the challenges businesses face. 


Image credit: pixdeluxe, istockphoto