If you get Nominated for a Clean50 Award – Jump on it!

By: Abbey Sciannella

2022 Clean50 Emerging Leader Tori Waugh shares her Clean50 Experience…

This year [2022] I hit big milestones; shook things up at the organizations I work for; started projects solving agriculture’s energy use challenges and improving the value of Ag innovations; all because of the people and principles of the Clean50. 

Clean50’s goal is to resolve sustainability challenges through facilitating collaboration between leaders across all sectors in Canada.  The way that the awards bring those people together to collaborate is something form which we should all take a page.  When the “call to action” for an award is collaboration, it makes every conversation purposeful and means every person in the room is there for the same reason.  The structured networking and discussion focus is an incredible means of putting fresh new ideas into the brains of thought leaders.  I had the opportunity to hear new ideas about my own industry, from people outside of my industry and it was eye-opening.

Great ideas don’t come from silos, and the Clean50 breaks silos, allowing cross-sectoral learning and collaboration.  After the Clean50 Summit last fall, I had 5 meetings lined up that enabled the kind of progress that I’ve made these past several months.  Those meetings led to 2 major collaborative projects and served to inform a whole new programming structure at the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) – one of the orgs for which I work.

Putting in the time and care to respond and participate in the Clean50 awards has paid off for me personally and professionally in profound ways I could not have imagined.

Tori Waugh, Principal Consultant, Conservation Ag Consulting

After speaking with so many innovators and people supporting innovation for sustainable outcomes, I gained an appreciation for the innovation network and exactly where my client organizations could fit, to contribute most meaningfully.  By hearing the needs of innovators and those supporting them, and seeing IFAO’s contributions to projects like the Living Lab – Ontario Program, I saw how important and valuable it was that farmers be involved in the development of innovations early on.  This led to the creation of the IFAO’s FIRE program (Farmer Innovation and Research Ecosystem); embedding farmers in guiding and contributing to innovation in agriculture through collaborations with Jeanette Jackson (2022 Clean 50 honouree) of Foresight Canada and their AgriNEXT Program and others to come. 

Worms the length of human beings – Another reason Tori says “Don’t Farm Naked”. Soil health can be improved through crop rotation and the use of cover crops appropriate to the farmer’s specific soil profile – which also leads to better financial outcomes for the farmer!

Our first partnered project will find pilot-ready solutions to farmer-identified challenges and open doors to a large suite of demonstration projects addressing soil health and nutrient management challenges.  With the network I gained through my participation in the Clean50, I was able to launch a program that reflected the needs of my new peers and get started straight away with the right partnerships in place.

Not only did I get to take a big bite out of nutrient management challenges with a great partner, but I got started in energy usage in agriculture as well.  There are a ton of incredible people from the clean energy sector in the Clean50 that I would have never met otherwise.  Of those five initial meetings, four were with people throughout the energy sector that were facilitating the development of hydrogen production and market uptake.  Ontario Agriculture uses a lot of diesel, propane, and if they’re lucky – natural gas; but most of our carbon footprint comes from nitrogen.  Hydrogen presents an opportunity to check off both boxes.  Meeting with Clean50 peers gave me insight on opportunities and trends in the hydrogen industry and revealed the opportunities and strategies for best-supporting my own industry’s exploration of hydrogen as a potential solution. 

As a result, I have initiated a project with (2022 Clean 50 honouree) Sabina Russell P.Eng. of Zen and the Art of Clean Energy Solutions on an Ontario-specific feasibility study of hydrogen in some of the more energy-intensive components of farm operations. 

Being a Clean 50 Emerging Leader opened doors immediately and continues to do so.  Even before I got to the Summit last fall, Clean50 Executive Director Gavin Pitchford had introduced me to other Clean50 members in my field from previous years, and those intros continued afterwards, with valuable and useful introductions tied to my specific needs – or theirs – at the time.  He also gave me the great fortune of attending the 2022 Globe Forum as well as several Clean50 exclusive events.  As you can imagine, I have been in meetings with incredible people since; laying the groundwork for the next suite of projects and gathering the partnerships necessary to make a big impact. 

So, if you find yourself so fortunate as to be nominated for a Clean50 award this year, make the time to give your best response.  A good response takes time and effort, but the process itself is a good exercise to appreciate your impact, and the time and effort will be well worth it!  Putting in the time and care to respond and participate in the Clean50 awards has paid off for me personally and professionally in profound ways I could not have imagined. 

Dirk Wittenborn said: “We are the sum of all the people we have ever met;” and not only do I have new professional opportunities headed my way, but I have amazing new friends, and I’m looking forward to them rubbing off on me even more.