Kamloops is among a number of communities examining the potential to house a food processing centre as part of the provincial government’s B.C. Food Hub Network.
The Ministry of Agriculture has awarded nearly $50,000 to the Kamloops Food Policy Council and groups in five other communities to conduct feasibility studies and business plans.
The Kamloops grant also involves a pilot project in which six local businesses are being sought to test how to support businesses and food processing in the region.
“The big thing we’re trying to do is figure out what the needs are in Kamloops and what model would serve those needs,” said Robyn McLean, project manager from the Kamloops Food Policy Council.
McLean said the group’s feasibility research will look at what food processing resources already exist in town, the gaps that are evident and the demand for a shared-use commercial kitchen space that can be rented by local businesses for food processing.
“That might be someone who’s growing their own food and wants to can it … or people that have a food business where they’re doing some kind of processed or packaged food,” McLean said.
The research will also examine whether a decentralized network of food processing services in town would work instead of a brick and mortar facility, which can come with a steep capital cost.
McLean said she also wants to “dig a little deeper” into Kamloops’ history in the cannery industry and understand what came of it.
“We know we’re a prime location to increase food processing as well as food production,” she said. “That’s what we used to be in the past, so understanding what the barriers are to that and trying to get back to doing more of that is a big goal of the project.”
As for the pilot project, six businesses will be connected with Kamloops Innovation, which will draw on its experience offering mentorship to the tech industry and apply it to provide tailored mentorship to the food industry.
McLean said the council is still searching for businesses to participate in the project and would like at least two of them to be owned by Indigenous people. A local business wanting to increase production and its customer base, but is having a hard time securing commercial kitchen space, would be an ideal participant, she said.
“Maybe they want to quit their day job and do their food business full time and they’re not exactly sure how to get there,” she said.
The pilot project and feasibility study will take place between September and December.
“What we hope to do then is come out with a solid business plan and know what our next steps are to actually bring it to fruition in the longer term, and that will include looking for more startup funding,” McLean said.
A survey for the feasibility study can be found online at kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com/food-hub-pilot-project. Those wishing to partake in the pilot project can call 778-376-2141 or email email@example.com.
Other groups receiving funding include: the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable in Victoria, the Upper Skeena Development Centre Society in Hazelton, Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, North Island College in Courtenay and Good to Grow Natural Products Coaching in North Vancouver.
The six projects are sharing $275,375 to develop feasibility studies and business plans, having been selected from an open request for proposals process through BC Bid.
The studies are the next step in advancing the B.C. Food Hub Network, which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Feed BC mandate to encourage more food and beverage processing in the province.
The goal of food hubs is to connect B.C.’s agriculture food producers and processors with shared technology, research and development, specialized equipment, expertise and services in a dynamic environment that benefits the local community.