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New opportunities for B.C. food processing and innovation hubs

Progress is being made on the B.C. Food Hub Network where communities will host regionally scaled and interconnected food hubs, linking food producers and processors with shared technology, research and development, production equipment, expertise and services.

Five communities have studies completed or underway, and new funding has opened, aimed at determining the needs for future food and innovation hubs in other parts of the province.

Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, provided the update while opening the FoodProWest conference in Vancouver, in front of processors and retail buyers who will benefit when the hubs open their doors. 

“I am so excited that we have reached this important stage in the development of the B.C. Food Hub Network,” said Popham. “As part of my agriculture tours of the province, I have witnessed some of the technological innovation that is happening right now in our B.C. food processing sector, and I want to build on this momentum. By creating a dedicated food hub space in regions throughout the province, the sector will be able to continue their growth and increase the value of B.C. processed products.”

The first round of feasibility studies and business plans, completed with more than $176,000 from the Province, identified opportunities in different regions of B.C. and involved a range of proponents, varying from regional trusts and regional districts, to local governments and post-secondary institutions.

The studies looked at the opportunities for regional food processing and innovation hubs in Quesnel/North Cariboo, Deep Bay/Central Vancouver Island, Salmon Arm/North Okanagan and the Columbia Basin Region. The studies engaged producers and processors to identify their unique regional needs with respect to a food processing and innovation hub. A previous feasibility study was completed in 2018 for the Summerland/South Okanagan region with $50,000 in federal and provincial support.

Two new funding opportunities are available for communities to support either implementing a regional food hub or, for regions that want to explore the possibility of a food hub, to undertake feasibility or business plan studies this year. Proponents prepared to implement a regional food hub can apply to a request for qualifications through BC Bid.

In addition, five proponents will be provided with up to $50,000 each to develop a feasibility study and/or business plan for their region. Interested proponents can apply to a short form request for proposals through BC Bid.

The completion and continued development of these studies highlight the next steps in advancing the regional food processing and innovation hubs that will create the greater B.C. Food Hub Network. The goal is to enhance sustainable growth and innovation in the processing, packaging and marketing of B.C. food and beverage products, and to showcase them to British Columbians and international markets.

In March 2019, the Province provided Commissary Connect, a shared-use processing facility in Vancouver, with $250,000 per year over three years to be the pilot and demonstration site for the B.C. Food Hub Network. The lessons learned from this pilot will help build and connect future regional hubs.

The B.C. Food Hub Network is part of the ministry’s Feed BC mandate, which commits to encouraging more food and beverage processing in British Columbia. This, in turn, will support local economies, job creation and farming families throughout the province.

Learn More:

February 2019 news release announcing Commissary Connect pilot hub:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019AGRI0017-000255

BC Bid: https://www.bcbid.gov.bc.ca/open.dll/welcome?language=En

A backgrounder follows.

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