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Agri-food incubation centre nets federal funds

The Rural Agri-innovation Network will help producers develop new products

The Rural Agri-innovation Network (RAIN) in Sault Ste. Marie has secured $450,000 in federal funds for an incubation centre that will help agri-food producers build and grow their businesses.

In the works for more than two years, the incubation centre will offer training, mentorship and market development support for producers, as well as a commercial test kitchen that will enable them to test out new products and recipes as they ready them for commercialization.

The centre will support innovation and improvements in packaging, processing and waste reduction; strengthen and expand supply chain networks; and assist with the development of new growing technologies, including vertical farming and hydroponics prototypes.

For the latter project, RAIN received funding in early October from the Weston Family Foundation, with berries targetted as its first test crop.

“FedNor’s support helps make it possible for us to work with farmers and communities to build a resilient agri-food sector in the Algoma region and Northern Ontario,” said David Thompson, RAIN’s director, in an October 12 news release.

“These funds will help us develop and foster local expertise and to maximize agri-food opportunities and help our region meet its great potential.”

RAIN will work with a number of partners on the project, including the Huron North Community Economic Alliance, Algoma University, the Algoma Community Pasture, AgriTech North, Collège Boréal, Smart Indoor Farming, and other farming and municipal organizations.

“Supporting farmers, producers, and agri-food entrepreneurs is important because they support communities, and we are proud to help create new opportunities for growth in Algoma district and Northern Ontario,” Sault MP Terry Sheehan said in the release.

“This investment will help strengthen and expand agri-food sector supply chains, and it will also help ensure that good food is produced locally and remains available here at home.”

RAIN is a division of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.