Okanagan-Shuswap food and beverage producers will soon have a new resource to help bring innovative products to market.
The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture announced Wednesday, Sept. 16, it will partner with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS), providing $500,000 for the development of a “food hub” to help businesses access shared food and beverage processing space and equipment in order to increase their sales.
In a related news release, Lana Popham, B.C.’s agriculture minister, explained the hub would provide entrepreneurs with a place to create and package new products, receive business support and engage in training opportunities to help develop products that will “strengthen food security, create good jobs and help the local economy thrive.”
The hub, scheduled to open in 2021, would also provide a venue for knowledge sharing, to support the growth of local businesses.
While a site for the hub has yet to be determined, Lana Fitt, economic development manager with SAEDS, said the initial space would ideally be around 5,000 square-feet. She explained the concept of the food hub is based on the sharing economy, similar to the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre but with a focus on food.
“So it’s really shared equipment, shared space for storage and production, and then the knowledge piece as well, providing support to both new start-ups and existing businesses looking to expand new product lines, new markets,” said Fitt.
The Salmon Arm hub will be the fifth in B.C. and the first in the Okanagan-Shuswap, joining three operating in Vancouver, Surrey and Port Alberni, and a fourth opening soon in Quesnel.
When the Salmon Arm Food Hub opens, Fitt said SAEDS will be looking for anchor tenants who will make consistent use of the space, while also making it available on more of a drop-in basis, again similar to the Innovation Centre.