The Manitoba Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie has raised its rates for the first time in 14 years.
Manitoba clients recently saw their rates increase by five per cent, while out-of-province clients have experienced a 13 per cent increase.
“These increases are needed to ensure it is recovering cost and to more accurately reflect a higher level of complexity in the services we provide to clients,” said a spokeswoman for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.
A Manitoba company doing product development will now pay $777 compared to $740. An out-of-province company would pay $836 for the same service.
Shelf-life testing — for a nine-month study — has increased to $2,285 for Manitobans, while a client from Alberta or Saskatchewan would pay $2,597.
“Manitoba taxpayers do not subsidize out-of-province activities,” said the spokeswoman.
International clients also make use of the facility, but are charged cost recovery, plus 10 per cent. Someone from France or India would pay $2,676 for shelf-life testing.
That seems reasonable to Kelly Beaulieu, who has been working with the centre in the development of her own company, Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products Inc.
“Their rates are still so reasonable, it’s definitely still a very good deal,” said the entrepreneur. “The cost is minimal compared to the value.”
The former agronomist has spent the last two years creating Prairie Garden Puree at the Manitoba Food Development Centre, a base ingredient for food production.
She is now building a large-scale processing plant for the product at the centre, having completed proof of technical concept requirements with the assistance of centre staff.
“We’ve got a cooking system that has never been used before, so we had a lot of trials to do,” she said.
The real value of working at the centre is that staff know what needs to be done to pass Canadian Food Inspection Agency testing, and can assist with complex issues around the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points management system, said Beaulieu.
You could get this kind of expertise in the private sector, she added, but it would likely be cost prohibitive.
“That’s part of the beauty of the Food Development Centre, its staff know all of the things that you are going to need and it has the resources there to help you,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the assistance.”