Ironically, for Ontario’s farmers, one of the biggest problems can be identifying new crops and moving excess harvest outside of their usual channels. The new Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre in Colborne is looking to bridge that gap.

The 15,000 square foot facility is a solar-powered food processing plant in Colborne just off Highway 401. The centre was officially inaugurated on the first of May this year in a bread-cutting ceremony attended by Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal.

Commissioning and testing of the facility will continue through the month of May, followed by a public opening in June.

"We’re fostering cross-cultural exchange and knowledge of foods between newcomers, immigrants, and other members of the community."

The centre is a one-of-a-kind venture providing on-demand and at-cost food processing services, including washing, hulling, cutting, flash-freezing, packing and labelling for almost any crop.

It will allow farmers to grow niche crops with the knowledge they can process them independently, and will also provide much needed options for local processing of traditional crops.

At the same time, Ontario food entrepreneurs will gain direct access to local farmers, and also to the professional food processing, preparation, and storage facilities that will allow them to build and grow their business.

Ontario food entrepreneurs will gain direct access to local farmers.

Northumberland County residents, and Ontarians from further afield, are eager to sign on. “The interest is very much there. The facility is really taking a Launchpad approach for food entrepreneurs with great ideas, providing the infrastructure to test their products and do product development,” says Northumberland County’s Director of Economic Development and Tourism Dan Borowec.

“There’s also real excitement from the agricultural community. The facility provides them the opportunity to realistically start generating second source farming income.”

New opportunities for new Canadians

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this new venture centre is the way it is empowering new Canadians to bring their specialized knowledge and skills to market. “Northumberland County’s newcomer and immigrant population has increased dramatically in the last six or seven years and we expect that trend to continue or increase over the next five years,” says Dindin Villarino, Business Immigration Coordinator for Northumberland County.

“We’re fostering cross-cultural exchange and knowledge of foods between newcomers, immigrants, and other members of the community. We know that many new Canadians have an interest in developing a business in the food sector, and we want to encourage these entrepreneurial activities.”

The positive potential of initiatives like this cannot be denied. Ontario farmers are in urgent need of additional routes to market for their produce, and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of Ontario’s economy.

It’s very exciting that this new Agri-Food Venture Centre is opening in Ontario’s heartland and creating new opportunities for Ontarians of all stripes.