Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Belleville
The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates agri-food producers, processors, organizations and rural communities, who through their innovative ideas and projects are helping strengthen our communities, support a sustainable environment, create jobs and boost our economy.
The following are regional award recipients in Lennox and Addington, Northumberland and Prince Edward County:
First Ontario Shrimp Ltd. - Campbellford
Good things grow in in Ontario- everything from strawberries to spinach to shrimp! Inspired by reports of indoor aquaculture in the U.S., the Cocchio family farm set out to become Ontario's first shrimp producers. The family secured an aquaculture licence, installed 16 saltwater tanks in a converted hog barn and worked with Canadian Food Inspection Agency to import feed and shrimp larvae. With their closed loop system, the Cocchios can produce 136 kilograms of Pacific white shrimp a week. You can enjoy their innovative results, fresh from the farm, at several high-end Toronto restaurants.
Honey Pie Hives & Herbals - Milford
Innovation has helped Honey Pie Hives and Herbals, a Prince Edward County operation, keep buzzing with Bay Woodyard and Gavin North selling their honey and transforming their wax into candles and lotions, making sure nothing goes to waste. They also extract value from the water used to rinse the honey-covered wax uncappings that are a byproduct of honey extraction. Instead of simply tossing this water, the duo ferment it to produce mead, an ancient type of wine. As the first meadery in Eastern Ontario, Honey Pie attracts a steady stream of visitors. Demand for the beverage is so high that Woodyard and North now buy uncappings from many students who have completed their beekeeping course.
On their 232-year-old family farm, Daniel and Ivan MacKinnon are taking local to a new level. In response to demand for locally produced beer, the two brothers converted a century barn into a brewing facility. Today, the operation produces beet-infused ales, German wheat beers and wild peppermint stouts, all made with their own hops, wheat and malting barley. To their knowledge, no other commercial brewery in Canada grows the majority of their ingredients right on site. By the end of 2016, they'll go even further, introducing a 100 per cent homegrown beer. It's a model customers are keen to get behind. The MacKinnon's first full year of operations generated over $600,000 in sales, with products in 16 LCBO stores and 100 draught taps.
Pyramid Ferments - Picton
When Jenna Empey and Alex Currie began offering Gut Shots, people lined up -- not for a punch to the stomach, but for 300 millilitres of probiotic-rich tonic that punches up the levels of healthy bacteria in their digestive system. The product proved so popular at farmers' markets that Empey and Currie are now marketing to retail outlets and discussing partnerships with juice companies. The tonic is simply the brine left over from their main activity: producing kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented foods. This former waste product accounted for 13 per cent of their sales in 2015, and they expect that number to double in 2016. To keep up with demand for the tonic, they've tripled kimchi and sauerkraut production - a boon for local cabbage producers.
U-Pac Agri-Service - Picton
Across Ontario's countryside, white plastic wrap encases bales of hay. The wrap is practical, keeping bales dry, but packaging it for recycling at the end of the season is cumbersome. And while commercial compactors are available, they can often be expensive. So Lynn Douglas Leavitt built a rugged wooden "basket," into which used bale wrap is loaded. It's then tamped into a compact package by a custom-made wooden compacter attached to a front-end loader. Tie the bale with string and it's ready for pickup by a recycling company. The portable $600 system helps farmers make their operations more sustainable. Leavitt is also working with a high school youth skills development program to manufacture and sell the innovative product, creating jobs for young rural workers.