Innovation Front & Center at Project Showcase

Leaders from across the industry came together at the 2018 Showcase of BC Projects in Abbotsford to collectively illustrate some of the latest (and greatest!) ideas that offer a bright future for BC agriculture.

The event, held in conjunction with the IAF Annual General Meeting on April 12th, featured exhibits from close to 40 projects funded through IAF that are helping to fuel innovation and market growth in primary production and food processing.

Hedy Dyck, Chief Operating Officer for the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA), was among many funding recipients who have witnessed significant impacts unfold for her sector thanks to project support.

“Showcasing BCLNA’s projects is important to the nursery industry as well as other sectors, as we learn from the diversity of projects and how they can enable industry to move forward to face challenges,” says Hedy. “It is a pleasure to work with IAF to find the pathways to address emerging issues and build a strong and vibrant industry.”

Programs like the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program proved particularly instrumental for a variety of sectors. For Dr. Saber Miresmailli, Founder and CEO of Ecoation Innovative Solutions, Innovation funding played a vital role in his efforts to advance crop health technology. With the development and commercialization of Crop Sense™, a wireless crop health monitoring system, growers can now identify where and when treatment is needed based on plant-generated signals before symptoms arise, significantly reducing crop loss, labour and pesticide applications.

Zuun Nutrition received Innovation funding to develop and commercialize an all-natural diabetic meal replacement drink, while Big Mountain Foods (BMF) accessed support through different funding programs to help expand their product line and grow their business. After developing the unique meat-free and allergy-friendly CauliCrumble Veggie Grounds with the help of Innovation funding, the family business turned to the BC Government’s Buy Local Program and the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program to revitalize their brand. The resulting increase in listings, sales and online exposure in both local and international markets is creating more lucrative opportunities for both BMF and their value chain partners in BC.

“With the increased demand we have been able to evolve from a small- to a medium-sized food manufacturer that is creating more jobs and sourcing more local ingredients,” BMF vice president, Jasmine Chamberland explains, noting that BMF has since employed several more full-time staff and now purchase truckloads of local ingredients instead of pallets.

Whether funding research into more sustainable pest control, technology to enhance animal welfare, or moving new products to market, we are proud to support BC’s leaders and innovators as they drive our industry forward one project at a time.

Project funding was provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Funding for the BC Government’s Buy Local Program is provided by the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

BC Buy Local Award of Excellence

Congratulations again to Kirk Homenick, winner of the inaugural BC Buy Local Award of Excellence!

The president of Naturally Homegrown Foods was recognized in 2017 for his Buy Local campaign, ‘A Chip Close to Home,’ for not only continuing to drive local agrifood sales but also for creating several new jobs for British Columbians.

Recognized as Honourable Mentions were Merissa Myles, Co-Founder of Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt, for using Buy Local funding to connect with grocery buyers, celebrity chefs, and consumers about the benefits of buying 100% BC milk dairy; and Robert Pringle, CEO of the United Flower Growers Cooperative Association, who spearheaded the ‘Flowerful BC’ initiative to encourage consumers to ‘pick local’ when buying plants and flowers.

The BC Buy Local Award of Excellence celebrates one outstanding BC producer or processor based on the achievements of the best Buy Local marketing project—the campaign that was the most creative, strategic and effective in increasing sales and consumer engagement. The 2017 winner was announced at the BC Food Processors Association’s FoodProWest Gala in Vancouver.

Driediger Farms Enjoys Record Numbers

For locals and tourists alike, Driediger Farms Market offers an irresistible Fraser Valley destination, with an abundance of fresh and frozen berries, a bounty of BC products from other local purveyors, and events and U-Pick fields for day-at-the-farm fun.

While the Farm has already helped propel several BC businesses into another phase of growth, Rhonda Driediger felt they could do more and decided to extend their marketing efforts to a broader customer base.

With better roadway signage and a combination of print, radio, online and TV advertising, the Driedigers launched their “local BC all under one roof” campaign closer to the Vancouver region, as well as the Chinese- and Japanese-speaking communities (the former representing one of the fastest growing populations in BC).

According to Rhonda, communicating with their guests in their preferred language represents a significant milestone.

“Marketing directly to the Asian community is new to the Fraser Valley farming industry,” she explains, noting that this demographic represents a large number of BC residents that had little to no communication of the buy local message.”

In less than a year, it was clear that this had changed as both English- and Mandarin-speaking visitors flocked to the farm in record numbers.

“Our 2016 market season saw unprecedented sales results not only in revenue but in product volumes,” reports Rhonda, adding that project results in 2017 were almost equally impressive, despite crop loss due to poor weather.

In addition to revenue spikes in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Rhonda was thrilled to see the number of visitors to their Summer Festival grow by over 1,500, as well as a surge of Facebook likes to the tune of 22,000 and counting, and an expansion of value chain partners.

For Rhonda, the ripple effect extending to other agri-businesses is a testament not just to the project’s success, but to a key tenet of the buy local movement—maximizing benefits across the value chain.

“Because of the increase in traffic and sales, we’ve been able to expand our product assortment and add 11 new vendors at the market,” she explains. “Now that we’re a recognized brand within the community we’re able to increase exposure and sales for more BC products, including from more remote areas of the province.”

Part of that exposure is through in-store signage that features free advertising for their vendors with detailed information about the specific farms and manufacturers sold under the Driediger umbrella.

And with growing numbers of locavore converts, Rhonda is finding that public support is leveraging these efforts beyond all expectations, with visitors increasingly engaging online and tweeting and posting pictures of themselves with the Driediger signs on social media.

“The increase in visitors not just from the Asian community but from outside the Fraser Valley is proof of this campaign’s success,” she declares. “We are now the go-to spot for easy access to a diverse collection of premium BC products.”

Funding: $44,021 provided by the BC Government. (BL224)

Poultry Production Goes Paperless

The first of its kind in Canadian poultry production, the BC Chicken Marketing Board’s new Grower Dashboard is pioneering how BC poultry farms are managed.

While the online system was primarily intended to replace and simplify the Daily Activity Sheet (a federal requirement for all flocks as they move through the production system), it has happily evolved into a single-serve database that promises to improve grower management and enhance industry communication.

“Previously our sector used paper-based reporting and tracking of flocks to adhere to the On-Farm Food Safety, Animal Care and BC Poultry Biosecurity Program requirements,” explains Shawn Mallon, the architect of the dashboard and Manager of Administration with the Board. “The new web-based, mobile-ready platform provides a single point of entry that not only reduces time and waste generated by paper-based reporting, but allows producers to compare data from year-to-year, organize and prepare for audits, and provides real-time access for industry managers to potentially identify issues as soon as they arise in an individual flock.”

With the ability to assess their performance based on past cycles and industry averages, growers can now make more informed management decisions regarding feed consumption, mortality and antimicrobial use.

According to Mallon, the key to the Dashboard’s success lies in industry adoption, which will generate more data for the Board to work with.

“The more growers use the program, the more useful the information will be and the more meaningful the data becomes when looking at industry trends” Mallon emphasizes, adding that this will also enable the Board to develop better and more accurate programming for producers.

One of the first to test the new platform at his broiler farm in Abbotsford, Brad Driediger of Windberry Farms is now a vocal proponent of the Dashboard and echoes the call for broader usage.

“We have a vital tool that will allow for a more coordinated approach in dealing with industry-wide issues such as flock mortality,” he explains. “This type of data isn’t usually captured or reported collectively, making it difficult for the Board to determine either causes or solutions.”

For Driediger, the Dashboard’s ability to facilitate greater industry connection is perhaps its most important feature, allowing him and other growers to receive timely news and notices on their main page.

Over time, the Board anticipates increasing environmental and economic impacts.

“As producers use the program to measure baselines and increase efficiencies, they will be able to optimize feed and the use of other inputs, decreasing waste and increasing returns,” Mallon predicts.

At the moment there is also talk of expanding the dashboard to other members of the value chain, and even nationally through the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC).

“If CFC adopts the dashboard for all broiler producers in Canada, then they can use their communication resources to launch the dashboard to the other provincial Boards,” says Mallon. “Other poultry commodities would find this dashboard useful, as well as hatcheries and processors, which would further enhance industry traceability and efficiency.”

Funding: $33,641 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN200)

Protecting the Future of Food & Farmland in Kelowna

The City of Kelowna is looking forward to their agricultural future, thanks to their newly updated ag plan.

After an 18-month planning process and extensive consultation with both industry and residents, the city’s sustainability coordinator, Tracy Guidi is confident the revised plan reflects the values of a community that holds agriculture at its core.

“Agriculture is such an integrated part of the culture of our city, whether you are a farmer or not,” says Guidi. “And with over 55 percent of our land zoned for agriculture, it is critical that we take steps now to preserve and promote local agriculture and ensure its long-term sustainability.”

With the original plan created in 1998, a modernized framework was desperately needed to provide what the city calls “clear policy and land use direction” that will ensure city agricultural policies are up-to-date, align with the official community plan and reflect recent changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

According to Guidi, safeguarding local agriculture, stewarding natural resources for food production, improving public awareness and access to local food, and identifying opportunities to strengthen farming as an economic driver were all prioritized during consultations.

“Preserving farmland in the face of increasing urbanization was identified as one of the most pressing issues,” she noted, adding that even land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is at risk as it tends to be flat, affordable, geographically appealing and often ideally located, making it desirable for urban development.

For city councillor Tracy Gray, discussion over agricultural land has been fraught with conflict.

“Almost half of our land base is in the ALR so we see the agriculture-urban issues frequently,” she explains. “It creates tension and uncertainty for farmers, residents and among neighbors close to that land.”

In an effort to alleviate some of the pressure, the new plan will focus on updating mapping tools, increasing opportunities for locally grown food, preserving local rural character and building community resilience towards climate change and the rising costs of food.

A total of 51 specific actions are recommended in the new agricultural plan, ranging from targets like restricting non-farm uses on farmland to exploring alternative ownership models to boost production.

So far industry response to the revamp has been overwhelmingly positive, with support from the BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) and the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, to name a few.

BCFGA president, Fred Steele is highly appreciative of the city’s leadership on the issue.

“The BCFGA is pleased to support and endorse the agriculture plan developed by the City of Kelowna,” says Steele. “We believe the plan reflects the current situation and promotes the economic contribution of the agriculture sector in Kelowna, and we are excited to work with the city on its successful implementation.”

The new ag area plan can be viewed at www.kelowna.ca.

Funding: $18,590 provided through the former federal-provincial Safety Net Fund. (B0016.43)