Best of the east
By Brandy Harrison
OTTAWA Latching onto new technology or mining history for a new twist on an old idea has snagged nine Eastern and East-Central Ontario farmers and agribusinesses the big bucks and a shout-out from the premier.
Province-wide, 50 winners of premiers awards for agri-food innovation excellence each take home $5,000. The top dog also earns a $75,000 premiers award and this year it goes to Castletons Kaleys Acres for converting former tobacco fields into kale production for snack chips.
Here are the bright ideas that put $5,000 in the pockets of nine eastern enterprises.
Ferme Avicole Laviolette: Tapping into the local buying penchant of increasingly food safety-conscious consumers, every egg not carton that leaves Marcel Laviolette Jr.s St. Isidore grading station is stamped with a code revealing production and batch date and producer number.
Complaints have dropped and sales are up, and for a small station that does 70 per cent of its business with restaurants, traceability is a competitive edge.
“We dont do it for the glory. We do it because were a small grader in a big mans world. Youve got to make yourself stand out in the crowd,” says Laviolette, who has 33,000 layers at Ferme Avicole Laviolette with his brother, Pascal.
Beaus All Natural Brewing Company: In seven years, sales at the organic Vankleek Hill brewery have topped more than $12 million annually, thanks in part to its environmental bent it uses only recycled paper and crown caps that increase bottle re-use, delivers its spent grains to farmers for feed, and leverages rooftop solar panels.
Champion Mushrooms Ltd.: By using smaller growing logs, improving nutrient absorption, and adjusting humidity at key growth stages, Cornwall mushroom producers Shu Lin and Yu Xuan Lin have reduced growing time for oyster mushrooms from 55 days to 15, cut labour costs, boosted yields, and displaced imports.
Feather Weight Farm Inc.: Opting for barcodes and data guns over paper, Sarsfield chicken farmer Robert Laplantes automated traceability system has cut the cost of recording flock data and reduced recall timelines from 24 hours to just three.
Glengarry Cheesemaking Inc.: Importing a passive high-temperature, short-time pasteurizer from Sweden and using a European-designed flow system to age her cheeses, Lancaster cheesemaker Margaret Peters became the first Canadian in 153 years to be named global supreme champion at the 2013 Global Cheese Making Competition.
Rainbow Heritage Garden: Carving a root cellar out of a hillside to store as many as 70,000 lb. of organic veggies 10 ft. underground with the help of a thousand cubic feet of homemade ice, Cobden market gardeners Zach Loeks and Kylah Dobson have reduced spoilage to gain a year-round customer base. (See story page A17).
Kaleys Acres: At their 5,000-sq.-ft. on-farm processing facility in Castleton, Draupadi and Adrian Quinn are turning the leafy-kale harvested from 10 acres of former tobacco fields into five flavours of snack chips that are already in such high demand the couple is set to increase production four fold in a new plant.
La Cultura Salumi Inc.: Using lean meat from free-range water buffalo, Frank Abballe uses Italian dry aging and artisan techniques to produce salt-reduced cured meats at his state-of-the-art Belleville plant.
Pyramid Farm and Ferments: Drawing on traditional Ukrainian recipes from the 1900s, Alex Currie and Jenna Empey doubled their income in a year by commercializing a fermentation process that bypasses vinegar and chemicals and uses only Prince Edward County veggies.