Investing in processing

Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (centre) announces a 3-year, $25 million investment fund for agri-processing. Rob Goodwell, chair of Gay Lea Board of directors (left) and Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario (right) also participated. (Photo by Steve Sabourin, CKNXNewsToday.ca)

With Gay Lea in Teeswater as a backdrop Monday morning, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced a three year, $25 million dollar pot for food processing in the province.

The money is part of the Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund and will provide grants of up to $3 million to agri-food processing businesses to invest in capital, equipment and technology.

The goal is increase capacity and productivity in the sector and to enhance food security.

“There are small, medium and large opportunities when it comes to processing in Ontario that we want to be able to support,” said Thompson. “So we encourage everyone to take a look at the program we’ve introduced today and re-evaluate their business plans and ask, do we need to grow, how do we innovate, how do we introduce new products?”

The initiative stems from the Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review which was released earlier this month.

The agriculture industry has been earmarked as a sector in the province that has the ability to help the province recover from the pandemic economically.

“So as we look to recover from the pandemic and grow beyond, we know that the agri-food sector is ready to go,” added Thompson.

Rob Goodwell is the Chair of the Board of Gay Lea. He says investments are vital to help spur innovation.

“They help you keep your businesses like Teeswater, the oldest creamery in Ontario, keep them in a community that needs those jobs and really helps build a community instead of taking everything to an urban area,” stated Goodwell.

He used a past project as an example of what can be done.

“This is actually a nutraceutical dryer, the newest and highest grade drier in Canada actually, in Teeswater, Ontario. And it can make products that are sold all over the world.”