Northumberland County is an agricultural-based community in south-eastern Ontario. Due to the increasing demand for and popularity of local food, Northumberland County started the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre to provide area farmers with a place to process the products they produced but could not sell directly. Conveniently located on the 401 between Toronto and Kingston, OAFVC is easily accessible.
OAFVC is owned by the County, though funding has also been obtained from the provincial and federal governments. Extensively renovating an existing building the County created this not-for-profit, small-batch food-processing facility.
Originally designed with farmers in mind, the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) supports fresh fruit and vegetable value-adding opportunities to increase farm and food business revenue.
The facility also helps entrepreneurs with recipe development. Staff members are also available to work with Ontario-based food-processing start-up companies, as well as those undergoing expansions, to support research and development initiatives, test product batches, and facilitate small-batch co-packing.
In meeting its goal to support and advance a sustainable regional local-food economy, OAFVC works with food processing businesses at all stages — from start-up until entrepreneurs are ready to purchase their own facility.
Start-up or Occasional-Use Entrepreneurs
The very existence of the OAFVC facility allows businesses to get started. The stories of actual OAFVC users demonstrate this. For example, one entrepreneur had difficulty finding an affordable commercial kitchen to rent. Now that her kids are grown, she was ready to get started on her own dream. The fact that this facility exists means she was finally able to start her own company.
Start-up entrepreneurs and occasional users will find the OAFVC very affordable to rent. You don’t even need to hire staff as the rental fee includes labour. This is especially beneficial for those who would only need labour once or twice per year.
By using the OAFVC commercial kitchen, another business owner was able to halve the time it took her to cook elsewhere. This user utilizes OAFVC for a large baking competition she competes in each summer when she needs massive production in two days. The OAFVC kitchen enabled her to meet her needs and successfully attend the event.
Growing businesses that are still looking to expand their customer base benefit from being able to both make and package their product at the OAFVC.
Other mid-level business clients appreciate being able to make soups and sauces here and package them, while they are working on getting more customers.
Established businesses can also benefit from using the OAFVC facilities. Businesses with one successful product or line that are looking to expand and develop additional offerings can use the OAFVC as a launch pad for new ventures.
The goal is for businesses to start at OAFVC, and eventually become so well established that they end up moving into their own facility. And there is no pressure for businesses to stay with OAFVC for their entire life span. We love it when businesses “graduate” from our facility to move on to bigger things.
One business that began with OAFVC and is now moving to its own facility that meets USDA Food Regulation Standards and increasing their production capacity. They will now be able to ship their product to the United States.
The Benefits for All Stages of Food Processing
Food processing at OAFVC allows you to:
- Produce your product in a food-safe environment
- Cook more efficiently — to save time
- Get started without investing capital in your own facility
- Train in food safety standards and business best practices
- Enter the market with a solid business strategy
- Intermediate step between producing at home and needing a co-packer
- Distribution step between farmers’ market and getting on store shelves
- Can accept deliveries of supplies — shipping/receiving capacity and labour included
- Can store up to 10 pallets for up to 2 weeks (dry storage, fridge, freezer)
- Cleaning and maintenance is included — no additional stress for you
- Shower facilities, lab coats provided
- Labour provided
- Book a trial run to see if it’s a good fit
To start or grow your food processing business in Northumberland County, be sure to avoid these 3 potential roadblocks. Download the e-book now.