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Farmer-Entrepreneurs Adding Value to the Agri-Food and Products Sector

Posted on January 27 2016 | Author: Carolyn Dowling

Primary agriculture in Canada plays a significant role in the economy as one of the most prominent and complex industries. As a result of fluctuating variables in the agriculture sector, including changing weather patterns, transportation, and global economic shifts, Canadian farmers are increasingly seeking alternative routes to market in order to mitigate risk and extend their market season. These farmers transitioning into agri-food and agri-product processors and manufacturers are a unique type of entrepreneur who demand specialized resources and support to enter the space, gain traction, and deliver on the bottom line.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) provides critical resources to start navigating the value-added sector:

If value-added food processing business is the next venture, OMAFRA’s online 2015 Guide to Food and Beverage Manufacturing provides commercialization considerations that every entrepreneur needs to make at the product development stage. The considerations covered in the Guide include quality assurance, marketing, pricing and distribution, as well as zoning and tax considerations.

The On-Farm Processing Recipe Based Costing Tool is another user-friendly online resource from OMAFRA which can help determine if value-added food processing is the right opportunity for you.  It analyzes the effects of ingredient, packaging and other costs on the product margin when scaling up to commercial format.

The Food Processing Human Resource Council (FPHRC) has launched the Innovations Road Map for Food and Beverage Processors , which is a start-to-finish online interactive platform for entrepreneurs moving from conceptualization to commercialization.

From a farmer-forward perspective, Farm Management Canada (FMC) has started bridging the gaps in the value chain by introducing Canadian farmers to sustainable business management strategies, including diversifying their market opportunities to increase their bottom line. FMC offers comprehensive online resources targeting the range of farmers from those individuals exploring their options to progressive farmer-entrepreneurs looking to make their next move. The following resources also include real-time case studies of Canadian farmers who travelled the road to commercialization before them:

The Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) provides complementary resources to both OMAFRA and FMC through two initiatives with Georgian College:

  1. Transition Smart- Farmers to Processors: This program is being rolled out in February 2016, aiming to connect farmers with the appropriate tools to enter agri-food processing, including operational planning, distribution and sales from a business management perspective.
  2. Food Entrepreneurs: Building Ontario Innovation One Product at a Time: This is a new food entrepreneur-focussed conference launching in March 2016, which will showcase local farmer-entrepreneurs, expert speakers and resources for new entrants to the space.

Although these resources are accessible to all Canadians, there are some additional programs targeting farmer-entrepreneurs in the Maritimes. These resources include:

  • The Future Farmer Program through PEI’s Growing Forward 2
  • THINKFarm through Nova Scotia’s Growing Forward 2
  • Innovation PEI provides programs that promote productivity, innovation, development, and commercialization in the value-added food and product space
  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) supports the processing space more so than the primary production space through their funding opportunities that are focussed on business development and innovation. 

Bioenterprise has worked with a number of farmer-entrepreneurs who have turned creative farm equipment solutions or niche food products into a successful value-added business ventures. These individuals accessed available resources to realize their dreams, including connections to local incubators and hubs, professionals in product and market development, and public and private funding opportunities.

The aforementioned resources, programs and tools act as a springboard for Canadian farmers to explore or upgrade their natural entrepreneurial business acumen. Farmers are enabled to hone in their focus on the innovation, competitiveness and market development necessary to advance and capitalize on the emerging market opportunities in the agri-business space.  

Carolyn Dowling
Senior Analyst






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“Rome wasn’t built in a Day”…

Posted on January 14 2016 | Author: Laura Millson

The ancient Roman Empire is renowned for its architectural and visual splendor.   It took the patience and commitment of many and attests to the fact that we simply cannot hope to achieve anything great within a short period of time.

We experience daily how our lives and work can be simplified if we were able to consolidate information in one place.  It is an intimidating task to research and model a database.   Patience, persistence and planning are key elements before you even get to the bricks and mortar.  This is the foundation of database development.

The challenge...

Perhaps the most important rule and phase to designing a database is the initial design and brainstorming phase.  A good database starts with a good plan.  Determine the purpose, the scope and the functionality of what you want the database to store, what you need out of it and how it will help you work.  This gives a developer all of the information upfront to begin a design.  Spending time on the planning process ensures you have a clear idea of the type of database your organization needs, can afford and support.  Only with all of the necessary information available can a great database “empire” design be created with proper linkages and best practices intact.

The goal…

The goal of any database is to be efficient and scalable.  Data is always edited, added and deleted so it is important to keep it organized in order to maintain this constant changing set of data.  Identify your organizations overall objectives, what data needs to be collected, what reports are required, user needs and overall benefits of the database and what it will offer.

The design…

The core of the database design can be complex and the process of planning can vary greatly.  Start with a general and complete view or “wish list” Be realistic about the planning process and collect the information about the needs of those who will be using the database.  It can often be more difficult to add in items later rather than get it right the first time. Decide what you want, prepare a timetable and scope of the project.  It can be streamlined as you progress.  An excellent feature worth investigating is the option of an administrative module to manage data, permissions, and security.

Creating a plan will serve as a guide when implementing the database and as a functional specification for the database after it is implemented.

Think outside the database.

  • Consider search features, uploads, messaging links to web browser and email functionality.
  • Decide what fields and tables your database will contain and the content and layout requirement of those tables  - be specific.
  • Define how data in one table is related to data in another table.
  • Do tables need to be linked together; or does data within each table require sorting.

Assess...

  • Who will lead the project?
  • Who will use the database?
  • Who will maintain the database and what experience do they have, in hardware and software requirements?
  • Are there any limits created by your current setup such as the age of computers or whether they are PC or MAC and their varying operating systems?
  • Do you have a network, require remote access; is there a budget for upgrades?
  • What staff will be trained in the use of the system?
  • How will it be delivered?
  • What support do you require?  (i.e. upgrades, potential new features, troubleshooting)

Plan your time…

No matter who is leading the project, the amount of time taken for planning is often under estimated.  Before the technical details, think through the commitment and ensure you have the budget and support needed.

  • Staff time to develop the database plan.
  • The cost of buying or building the database.
  • Staff time to test/data entry.
  • Training of staff to use the database.
  • Time to manage, maintain and use the database.

The budget…

  • Your estimate of time and budget will become more and more accurate as the planning process continues
  • Identify the problems that need to be solved and the benefits it will bring
  • Staff time, streamlining productivity and efficiency
  • Improved quality of service or delivery of information
  • The value of these potential benefits will help set up an initial budget which can be modified as you talk to suppliers and contractors.

The Key to Success…

Ensure you have the clear support and involvement of senior management.  Developing a new database cannot be seen as a technical issue – it is likely to affect the entire organization and it needs senior level support.  Which is vital once the development process becomes more technically driven.

Now that the foundation blocks have been assembled you can begin the intricate architectural build of your database project.

Laura Milson
Special Projects Coordinator






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