Author Archives: AgInnovation Ontario

Seed fund investment helps local gourmet food processor double sales in only one year

This week’s story comes to us from Bioenterprise.

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph, Ontario-based Rootham Gourmet Preserves has a long history of sourcing locally grown fruits and vegetables and partnering with local farms and businesses.

As the local food movement took hold, owner Will Rootham-Roberts started seeing increased interest in locally made and sourced small-batch gourmet condiments. He recognized an opportunity for the family-owned company to expand and offer Ontario farmers the possibility of creating and selling shelf-stable jams, jellies and sauces from their own locally grown produce.

But he needed help turning that vision into reality – help he received from Bioenterprise in the form of a grant from the Bioenterprise Seed Fund.

“Thanks to Bioenterprise, we were able to expand our processing capabilities and undertake a direct marketing campaign to promote our services to potential customers,” said Rootham-Roberts. Continue reading

Growing Canada’s emerging sweet potato industry

By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – Canada’s first sweet potato variety is expected for release next year. And now work is underway to ensure Canadian farmers can also access sweet potato cuttings – called slips – right here at home.

To help meet booming Canadian demand for sweet potatoes, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) is developing new varieties that grow well in Canada’s cooler climate and shorter growing season.

About 1,700 acres of the healthy tuber are currently grown in Canada – mostly in southern Ontario’s Norfolk County – but they’re all longer season varieties from the southern United States.

That’s also where Canada’s growers are getting their sweet potato slips every spring to plant their crops, but they can be in short supply and quality could be compromised.

“Canadian sweet potato growers use U.S. propagators and breeding programs because we don’t have the infrastructure and varieties here,” said research scientist Viliam Zvalo of Vineland. “Also, slip propagation has to be started in March when the ground could still be frozen in Canada. Our challenge is to figure out how we can produce them here so we can supply Canadian growers with quality slips at a reasonable price.” Continue reading

Incubator uses Growing Forward 2 funding to give local food businesses a start

This week’s story comes to us from the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

By Lilian Schaer

Toronto – A not-for-profit food business incubator in Toronto is helping entrepreneurs get their fledgling food companies off the ground.

Food Starter offers food prep, processing, packaging and storage facilities to industry entrants at a reduced rate, as well as courses to teach entrepreneurs about key aspects of the food industry, like food safety, regulatory compliance, labelling, accounting, marketing, business management and human resources.

The Toronto Food Business Incubator partnered with the City of Toronto to access funding from Growing Forward 2 to develop and launch Food Starter in November 2015.

“A lot of people here are good at recipes but don’t know about all the other things needed to run a food business,” explains Carlos Correia, Food Starter’s Facility Manager. “We cover all aspects of business development to give them information they didn’t know existed but would be road block to keep them from moving forward.” Continue reading

Online marketing opens consumer doors for Ontario beef farmers

Rob and Maryjo Tait of Celtic Ridge Farms

By Jeanine Moyer for AgInnovation Ontario

Dutton – Ontario beef farmers are taking ‘local’ online to reach new customers.

Farm to City, a new marketing model with a web-based ordering system, is opening up direct-to-customer marketing opportunities for beef farmers such as Rob and Maryjo Tait, of Celtic Ridge Farms.

The young farm family recently launched the online ordering system and was thrilled by the response from customers.

“We knew our farm meat products needed an online presence,” said Rob. “Our customers are shopping, researching and sharing their food experiences online. The Farm to City online model is attracting new customers and opening up new opportunities for us.” Continue reading

Dog and cat food gets eat-local, back-to-basics diet option

By Lisa McLean for AgInnovation Ontario

Beamsville – Health-conscious Canadians know a low glycemic index (GI) diet with fewer processed foods is an effective way to manage weight. Now, a Canadian pet food company is applying those same priorities to pets.

Dan Stevenson, president of Ontario-based Boréal Pet Food, says the idea for a new line of cat and dog food came from a desire to go back-to-basics for Canadian pets.

He and his brother Hugh Stevenson, a veterinarian, have built a line of canned and dried food products for cats and dogs that use low-carb Canadian ingredients.

Stevenson spent more than 15 years in the pet food industry before starting his own line. He says he didn’t see enough pet foods taking a low GI approach for the average pet – and it was taking a toll on animal health.

“Too many pets are consuming high-carb diets because they’re eating food with high amounts of corn, wheat, rice and potato, and it contributes to skin allergies, obesity, diabetes and poor pet health,” says Stevenson. “Low GI foods slow digestion, keeping pets fuller for longer.” Continue reading