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Recognizing the entrepreneurial spirit of the northwest

Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre stages annual awards luncheon
Freshwater Cuisine owner Jay Barnard receives the Innovative Project of the Year Award from Rosa Carlino at the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre Awards in Thunder Bay, May 24.

The Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay passed out the hardware at its RBC Innovation Awards luncheon before 170 attendees, May 24.

The 10th annual awards celebrate and recognize innovative companies and individuals from across the region.Five winners were selected from more than 30 nominations.

The Innovative Company of the Year is Rent Panda of Thunder Bay, a new one-stop shop for rental housing needs with a focus on building safe neighbourhoods. The company is working on new technology to include products and services such as online rent payments.

Young Innovator of the Year is Coby Ruberto of Thunder Bay and his URIDE ride sharing app. URIDE partners with a local car service to be able to provide rides to meet the demand. A portion of the proceeds from each ride goes to different organizations and initiatives in Thunder Bay.

Dan Munshaw, manager of the supply management division at the City of Thunder Bay, took home the Marvin Detweiler Advisor of the Year. The Innovation Centre said his passion for innovation is evident from the numerous companies he has advised and the connections he has provided to clients.

The Innovation Hero is Taylor Gorrie, a grade-school-aged social entrepreneur who’s created a Thunder Bay movement and website called Taylorpedia with an anti-bullying school program for children called The Safe Zone.

Freshwater Cuisine was selected as the Innovation Project of the Year. The Kenora fish processing company, owned by Jay Barnard, seeks to utilize 100 per cent of every fish it purchases has expanded into developing a proprietary organic liquid fish fertilizer. The company is committed to local food security with an end goal is to provide the remote First Nations communities of Ontario's North the ability to produce local fertilizer for the increasing number of community gardens.

“This event has continued to grow, and illustrates that Northwestern Ontario is really becoming an innovation hotspot,” said Judy Sander, innovation centre manager, in a statement.