The Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC). As spring is on its way, what an appropriate time to talk about this!
The OAFVC is a not-for-profit, small batch food processing facility located in Colborne, just around the corner from the iconic Colborne Big Apple. It was designed specifically with farmers in mind and provides a full service approach to its members. This facility isn’t just about fresh fruit and vegetable value added opportunities to increase farm revenue. The OAFVC is essentially providing a community to growers, agricultural and culinary students/enthusiasts, food processing start-ups and business professionals where their ideas can come to life. Or fruition, if you’ll pardon the pun.
If you’ve grown extra strawberries, the OAFVC can turn them into jam. We’re talking wash, cut, cook and package.
If you have an amazing culinary idea and need a space for recipe development, the OAFVC has a commercial kitchen. I mean a SERIOUS commercial kitchen.
If you have fruit or vegetables that need to be frozen – the OAFVC can do that FAST. And it can provide storage too.
Basically, the OAFVC has it all. Arrive with your produce, have it processed and get it to market. If you require assistance with anything in between – equipment training and business incubation services are available onsite. Maybe you have the produce, but aren’t sure what to do with it. Maybe you have the idea but don’t know where to source the produce. All of these loose ends can be tied up at the OAFVC. At the end of the day the facility is about providing a space, the equipment and the necessary infrastructure to support value added production of fruits and vegetables. The OAFVC aims to support and advance a sustainable regional local food economy. I could go on and on about this project, it definitely hits home for me. I suggest you check it out for yourself. You don’t necessarily need to be a farmer or a foodie, volunteers and curious minds of all types are encouraged to connect with the OAFVC.
Take a peek at their website, join as a member online to receive their communications, you can even request to book a tour of the facility www.oafvc.ca
The hangar-sized working space inside is divided into several rooms, each of which can be rented for half- to full-day rates, ranging from $100 to $240.
There’s a lab for developing new recipes; a fruit and vegetable prep room with a “produce Jacuzzi” to wash away field residue; a processing kitchen that includes a cold press that will crush anything from coconuts to sunflower seeds, a dehydrator, tilting skillet (that can do 120 jars at once) and flash freezer. There’s also a packaging room with vacuum-packing and bottle-filling machines, and a conveyor belt leading to a metal detector and four-colour and nutritional labeling – all the steps to take your raw produce to finished product ready for a store shelf. One of the coolest things among all the shiny new machinery is a dishwasher that can sanitize a load in 61 seconds!
Staff at the centre also provide business advice and product development, including help with flavour profiles and scaling of batches, and they are partnering with food and design programs at Loyalist, Durham and George Brown Colleges to feed the centre with fresh ideas and young minds.
“We’re not a storage facility, we’re a processing facility,” emphasizes Mellor, “and we don’t want anyone to nest here; we’ve gone with a pay-to-play model, that way no single business can monopolize a facility funded by the government.”
Working with the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC)
116 Industrial Park Rd.
PO Box 795
Colborne, ON K0K 1S0
(Corner of Industrial Park Road North and Purdy Road)