The Food Development Centre at Portage la Prairie is undergoing a major renovation this winter that will expand its processing and warehouse capacity plus add space for additional staff.
Included in the $7.74-million expansion is a 6,000-sq.-ft. addition to the west side of the building to house more staff plus a full-service training centre. Some of FDC is currently housed in trailers located on FDC site. The centre hopes to eventually house several staff with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives with expertise in food commercialization and business development.
Having additional expertise under the FDC roof will expand the FDC’s capacity to assist clients with marketing and business plans as they pursue product development, said Lynda Lowry, the FDC’s general manager and chief operating officer.
The training centre meanwhile will make it possible for the FDC to offer in-house and virtual training and educational opportunities.
“We will have a 50-person boardroom. It will really increase our ability to transfer knowledge to producers and food processors and academics.”
The update will also expand warehouse space and add five new technologies to the FDC’s processing suite, boosting the facility’s capacity for product innovation and development.
The additions include processing equipment to create shelf-ready products in pouches and trays, a new unit that expands research capacity for working with liquid foods such as beverages and sauces, new equipment for expanded packaging and labelling options as well as a unit to produce larger volumes of energy bars using a variety of processes.
As well, they are adding new steam technology processing equipment to blend, heat treat and package vegetables for use as ingredients by the food industry.
Lowry said several of these technologies are being added to meet demand of existing clients.
“It will help us better serve them and help them bridge that black hole between prototype and bench scale to commercialization scale,” she said.
Additionally, the FDC is renovating space previously occupied by Great Plains Aseptic Processing to become in-house incubation units, or spaces for new food companies to lease while they do their food product manufacturing at the FDC.
“A company that wishes to use one of those technologies can actually move in and create their own office and business space and operate independently here,” Lowry said. Currently one client occupies available space and they are now advertising the rest.
The office space and training centre renovations should be complete by end of June while the processing suite and warehouse expansions are expected to be done by year’s end.
In total, the upgrades should add about 12,000 sq. ft. to the existing 43,000-sq.-ft-facility located on the northwest outskirts of Portage la Prairie.
Fourteen companies presently use the FDC’s pilot plant facilities for food product manufacturing plus an additional 80 clients are in various stages of product development, shelf-life testing, nutrition labelling or other research and development activities in the product development sequence. About 60 per cent of FDC clients are Manitobans with the rest from out-of-province or overseas.
The FDC produced $1.1 million worth of retail-ready product in 2010 and helped create 42 new food products.
It has operated at its current location since 1979 and has undergone several expansions in the past 25 years. It became a special operating agency of the provincial government in 1999.
Last week federal member of Parliament Candice Hoeppner (Portage-Lisgar) and MAFRI Minister Stan Struthers were at the FDC to jointly announce $2.6 million for the expansion.
“The Food Development Centre is a valuable asset that helps Manitoba farmers, food processors and entrepreneurs excel in building value chains with Manitoba products and capturing business opportunities,” said Struthers in a release.
“Itwillhelpusbetter serve(clients)andhelp thembridgethatblack holebetweenprototype andbenchscaleto commercialization scale.”
– LYNDA LOWRY, FDC GENERAL MANAGER AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER