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Grand River Ag. Society steps up its support for start-ups

The Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) is stepping up its philanthropic efforts, last week announcing a new partnership with RH Accelerator and committing $250,000 to help support businesses in the fields of agriculture, food, environment and clean technologies throughout the counties of Wellington, Waterloo and Perth. 

Supporting local initiatives has long been at the core of the agricultural society’s mandate, with the latest step moving the effort to phase three or “impact investing,” explained GRAS vice-president Deborah Whale.

“The Grand River Agricultural Society for a long time has had a philanthropic emphasis, particularly in agriculture and the environment. We started off small, keeping a lot of our investments and donations, in the local community initiatives in agriculturally dense, and in some good environmental work, such as river cleanups and fish habitats that kind of thing. Then we got a bit bigger, and started looking at expanding some of our investments into larger organizations,” said Whale, noting there have been some larger investments in equine health, for instance, and with organizations such as the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Whale was part of a videoconference held December 9 to announce the partnership. She was joined by GRAS president Garth Green, RH Accelerator (RHA) co-founder Joe Dales and GRAS marketing director Katie Giddy.

The shift to impact investing was a good fit between the agricultural society and RHA, which share common goals, said Whale.

“The goal of RHA is to create some economic benefits to support young founders to create jobs and, very importantly, to increase the awareness in general of the agriculture and environmental industries in our local communities.”

Giddy explained that the grants are aimed at startups that have already reached the point in their business journey where they are earning revenue but looking to take things to the next level.

“What RH Accelerator offers and provides is in-depth coaching, mentorship, and business advice and guides to really help the health of business to grow.”

Giddy recommends those interested in applying for the grants to reach out to RHA directly. Step one of the process would be a conversation with Dales directly, and applications for the process are available on the company’s website. 

The parties are all excited about how this commitment will shape the local industry.

“One of most exciting things for us is that this program will allow us to tell the story of the businesses inside of our area and the great things that they’re doing. We’re very fortunate in the Wellington-Waterloo-Perth community to have lots of businesses that have a core of agriculture, food, and environment at their base. And we really just want to try and play a part of helping to put them on the map,” said Giddy. “That’s something that’s very important to Grand River Ag.” 

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