The Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub (OFIH) is a project that connects agri-food businesses; post-secondary, innovation and research institutions; local and First Nations governments and other players along the agricultural food chain. This collaborative Hub is dedicated to growing the local agri-food economy by encouraging value-added processes and support services. This project will connect local farmers/entrepreneurs to the right resources for development, successful commercialization, and scaling-up their food products by providing a commercial kitchen with specialized equipment and integrated services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is a Food Hub of this kind needed – why now?
Food security has become a paramount issue in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as climate resiliency reasons (i.e. lack of Highway connection to the Lower Mainland due to flooding). The idea of locating a Food Hub being located in Summerland to service the Okanagan & Similkameen regions is to provide opportunities of existing food producers to experiment with value added innovation and equipment to potentially process and make more food within the region, and therefore a more sustainable and resilient regional food system.
The Food Hub will also provide job opportunities and allow existing food businesses access to needed commercial kitchen space, storage, and services to diversify their business operations and explore new and unique marketing streams for their food products. This will help with local employment, and also provide additional revenue opportunities for farmers.
Who are the potential clients for the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub (HUB)?
Our business plan has collected interviews from over 78 food businesses across the Okanagan region that would be willing to access the Hub. Nine of these businesses are willing to provide equity stakes of $5,000 towards the project.
I heard the former Mayor has a lavender farm at the proposed location and that is why the HUB is going there. Is that true? How was this site selected?
The location partner was selected thru an open RFP process. There were several proposals put forward for consideration and evaluation. Council selected the preferred project location partner after they reviewed the options presented. For clarity, the former mayor is not the owner of the property. [+and is one of several farmers works the land on the subject property]
Where is the HUB proposed to be located?
At this time, the location being considered is at 26405 Garnet Valley Road. The District, CFOS have entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Garnet Valley Ranch Ltd. for this purpose. A new facility is proposed to be constructed with approximately 35% of the space of the new building being leased to the HUB. The remaining 65% of space will be dedicated to winery production and other tenants of the landlord.
It seems like the proposed location is far away from town, won’t that deter people from using the HUB?
Currently small-scale food producers and farmers are shipping their produce to much farther locations, like Kamloops or the Lower Mainland to access the necessary processing equipment to make value-added products. Our surveys have indicated the farmers and businesses as far as Princeton to Vernon have interest in accessing the HUB. These potential users would not have a concern of driving 10 minutes off of Highway 97 to access the HUB.
If you don’t get the rest of the money needed, then what?
The project could proceed at a reduced scope, but the prepared business plan will need to be revised.
Who will be running the overall operations of the HUB?
A new non-profit society was created by several regional food processors to collect and advocate for farmer & processor needs. It is envisioned that this society will eventually take over the operations of the Okanagan Innovation Food Hub.
Who are all the funding partners?
Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (to date). The District of Summerland is not a funding partner of this project, but is contributing in-kind support to the project.
How much money is it going to cost taxpayers of Summerland to bring services to the proposed site?
All costs to service the site are the responsibility of the landlord. The District of Summerland is not a direct funding partner of this project.
How much funding is required to proceed with the project?
The OFIH business plan (link below) requires a minimum level of $2.4 million for the full vision to proceed. To date, and with the announcement of $800,000 from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, total funding committed is $850,000 which will enable some of the activities to begin. The project partners are currently seeking additional funding sources to proceed with the full vision of the project.
Government should not be in the business of being in business. Why is the District trying to operate a Food Hub?
The District of Summerland will not be operating the Food Hub. The District’s intention is to establish the HUB as asset in the community and then provide to a non-profit operator to manage the HUB. It’s planned that the Board of Directors of this non-profit operator will be made up of businesses that require access to the HUB, so that they have a vested interest in having it succeed.
Has this project already been approved by the District?
According to the District's MOU, the land partner, Garnet Valley Ranch Ltd, is responsible to gain all land use approvals to allow for the HUB to be located at their property. This includes both Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and District of Summerland approvals. These approvals are currently not in place yet.
What sort of equipment will the HUB have available for use?
The HUB will provide state-of-the-art drying capabilities that can handle ground crops, tree fruits and berries to produce a diversified mix of high-value processed products (dried cherry chunks, apple chips, fruit leathers, or vegetable flours (cauliflower, apple, kale, etc.)). There will also be a HACCP certified commercial kitchen, three temperature-zoned storage space, packaging equipment, food testing laboratory. The OFIH business plan provides additional details on equipment being considered.
What services will the HUB be able to provide food businesses?
Services proposed to be offered at the HUB include product development consulting services, food testing services, storage services, meeting room space, co-packing services, brokerage, distribution and wholesale on-line sales.
How can local farms or businesses get involved?
A new non-profit society was created by several regional food processors to collect and advocate for farmer & processor needs. It is envisioned that this society will eventually take over the operations of the Okanagan Innovation Food Hub. Interested farmers and processors can learn more and join here https://sosfoodhubs.ca/. People can also reach out directly to Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen.
The District was recently awarded $800,000 from the Province of British Columbia for the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub. To view the media release, see https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023AF0003-000193.
On March 14, 2022, a Committee of the Whole meeting was held regarding the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub Business Plan. The link to this meeting recording can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMKpYUqWo3c.
- A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by all three project partners: the District of Summerland, Community Futures Okanagan-Similkameen, and Garnet Valley Ranch Ltd.
- The District of Summerland is currently looking for grant funding opportunities for the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub at 26405 Garnet Valley Road
Additional information and the Hub's business plan can be found here: OFIH Business Plan
With the creation of the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub, there are several goals that are being targeted for the local community. These include:
- Strengthening Regional Food Producers: The Hub will help farmers to develop new value-added products, increase their growing capacity, and access new channels to expand their market reach.
- Improving Regional Food System Security: The security of our local food system is under threat from crops being culled due to weather conditions, and fierce competition from the US and other importers. Food security will be increased by helping producers transition to value-added products and new markets, both local and for export.
- Agri-Tourism: Agri-Tourism in the Thompson-Okanagan region attracts an estimated 3.5 million visitors per year, mostly to wineries. This sector is underdeveloped in other categories, such as culinary tourism and indigenous agri-tourism. The Hub will encourage the development of value-added artisan food products to support the culinary tourism sector.
The Kwantlen Polytechnic University Institute of Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) has completed a number of studies on the Okanagan Bioregion Food System and how local governments within the Okanagan can support the regional food system through planning, policy, and support for value added production opportunities (such as the Okanagan Food and Innovation Hub). For further information please visit ISFS report webpages and the associated policy briefs for their research below.
Report on Okanagan Bioregion Food System Project
Research Brief - Food Policy Assessment in the Okanagan Bioregion