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TELUS celebrates five grand prize winners of its #StandWithOwners program

Tech Trends · Nov 28, 2023

(Above) From left to right: Georges Aczam, co-owner of AquaVerti Farms; Ameen Fadel and Surria Fadel, owners of Cedar Valley; Carlyn Loncaric, owner of VodaSafe Inc.; Maya Kotecha, co-owner of Hoot Reading; Andrea Gomez, co-owner of Omy Laboratories.

TELUS is celebrating the five grand prize winners of this year’s #StandWithOwners, a program designed to champion groundbreaking, growth-minded, game-changing business owners who are driving innovation in their field, serving their customers and communities in meaningful ways, and using technology to grow and differentiate their business.

From thousands of applications, the #StandWithOwners program officially announced 20 finalists on Sept. 27, of which five were selected by a panel of judges to receive the grand prize valued at over $125,000 – which included $50,000 in cash, $50,000 in advertising, over $25,000 in technology and business services from TELUS and their partners, as well as access to customized mentorship through the TELUS Advisory Council. The five winners also recently celebrated their win with a VIP experience to Vancouver to celebrate their achievement as grand prize winners while enjoying a Vancouver Whitecaps FC game.

“With so many amazing entries who entered the fourth #StandWithOwners program, the entrepreneurial spirit across the country deserves the spotlight. Congratulations to all our finalists, and especially our grand prize winners,” said Roi Ross, SVP & President, Small and Medium Business (SMB), TELUS Business.

This year’s winners include: a mother-son team who started with a $3,000 grant to create Lebanese-inspired food and is now available in over 1,000 retailers across Canada; entrepreneurs growing vertical hydroponic vegetables and are the first farm in Canada to completely eliminate CO2 emissions from production; a social enterprise dedicated to changing children’s lives through literacy, providing over 250,000 evidence-based reading lessons by qualified teachers; a B Corp Certified custom dermocosmetics company that uses AI to offer accessible and personalized products; and an owner whose developed the world’s first handheld sonar device using artificial intelligence to search for humans in the water.

“These Canadian businesses are an inspiration for their vision, accomplishments and dedication to creating positive and sustainable change in their local communities. We look forward to celebrating their continued success and seeing how they continue to grow, break new ground and change the game across Canada, and the world,” said Mr. Ross.

Read the profiles of the winners below.

AquaVerti Farms Inc.

Georges Aczam and Stephen Moss, owners of AquaVerti Farms Inc.

Owners: Georges Aczam and Stephen Moss, Montréal, QC.

AquaVerti specializes in the cultivation of hydroponic vegetables and is the only vertical hydroponic farm with commercial production capacity in Quebec.

AquaVerti is the first farm in Canada to completely eliminate CO2 emissions from production and has saved over 500,000,000 liters of water since 2017 compared to traditional farms. Their products also remains fresh for more than four weeks after harvest, compared to the standard seven to 10 days. This has allowed them to significantly reduce food waste by more than four times compared to competitors.

By using IoT [Internet of Things] devices, and even two robots named Bertha and Mathieu, they’ve been able to weave technology throughout their farm. This has given them control over every aspect of production and the ability to collect data from over 30 sources which they analyze and optimize.

Cedar Valley

Ameen and Surria Fadel, owners of Cedar Valley

Owners: Ameen and Surria Fadel, Oldcastle, ON.

A mother-son duo created Cedar Valley, a product line consisting of salad dressings and authentic Lebanese-style pita chips.

Starting their business with a $3,000 grant, in just a few years they’ve grown to opening a 5,000 square foot manufacturing facility and having their products stocked in over 1,000 retailers.

Cedar Valley prides themselves on their innovation, use of technology and strict ingredient standards to make their products. They use all-natural, non-GMO products and only non-seed oils to fry their chips, resulting in a unique product texture and flavour that sets them apart from their U.S.-based competition. They’ve continually upgraded their manufacturing machinery using Canadian suppliers, to automate processes, integrate software and increase efficiency which has allowed them to hire more members of their community using the Unemployed Help Centre and New Canadians Centre for Excellence.

Hoot Reading

Maya Kotecha and Carly Shuler, owners of Hoot Reading

Owners: Maya Kotecha and Carly Shuler, Winnipeg, MB.

Hoot Reading is dedicated to changing children’s lives through literacy. This Winnipeg-based social enterprise has delivered over 250,000 evidence-based reading lessons by qualified teachers and grown their team to 50 full-time staff.

Hoot’s approach includes proprietary engagement, teaching and monitoring features delivered through an app that deepens the impact of tutoring with each student. The app also includes monitoring tools that collect and aggregate important literacy data for school districts and charitable organizations. This helps ensure that future literacy investments are impactful, cost-effective and equitable.

Omy Laboratoires

Rachelle Séguin and Andrea Gomez, owners of Omy Laboratoires

Owners: Rachelle Séguin and Andrea Gomez, Québec, QC.

Omy Laboratoires is a B certified custom dermocosmetics company that offers accessible and personalized products that meet the needs of those neglected by the cosmetic industry. They have grown exponentially in the past four years, and now employ over 30 people. They are currently focused on expanding internationally while introducing new product lines.

Part of what sets them apart from other cosmetic companies is their use of technology. They use a proprietary artificial intelligence software called SkinIA to analyze the proportion of wrinkles, spots, pores and redness of their online customers. This data allows them to identify the specific needs of each consumer in terms of dermocosmetics and create customized formulas.

VodaSafe Inc.

Carlyn Loncaric, owner of VodaSafe Inc.

Owner: Carlyn Loncaric, Vancouver, BC.

Vodasafe Inc. makes a hand-held sonar device called AquaEye that uses AI to quickly locate people underwater, revolutionizing the way rescuers do their job.

AquaEye is very simple to use and looks like a radar gun. It can scan and pinpoint the location of a swimmer in a body of water the size of a football field in less than two minutes. Currently the AquaEye is being sold to lifeguards, fire fighters, law enforcement and search and rescue teams across North America.

AquaEye is revolutionizing the way rescuers do their job, turning hours or days of search into minutes. In most cases, AquaEye reduces search time by a minimum of 85 per cent.

Read more about the winners and see the finalists.

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail.

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