Looking to expand their product offering, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm got a shot in the arm from the federal government.Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht stopped by Martin’s Elmira processing facility November 1 on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to announce a $713,000 matching grant to help the company adapt equipment –currently used for Martin’s apple chip line – for the production of vegetable chips.
“I am very pleased to announce that the government of Canada is investing over $713,000 to help Martin’s Family Fruit Farm adapt innovative processing equipment for the slicing and dehydration of fresh vegetable chips,” Albrecht said. “With this investment, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm will build on their expertise in producing dehydrated, crispy apple chips to now include vegetables. They will use this processing facility in Elmira to develop and test drying methods for four vegetable varieties: sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. In addition, they will design and install processing equipment for large scale production. This project will help create jobs and increase demand for vegetables leading to increased opportunities and greater profitability for farmers.”
The grant marks the second major investment in the company by the federal government in three years, as $1.4 million was provided in 2012 to help create the apple crisp and cider processing facility.
“Martin’s Family Fruit Farm’s line of pure fruit apple crisps is an excellent example of how Canada’s agriculture sector is innovating to meet growing demand for healthier, more natural food,” Albrecht said. “This type of innovation is key to creating jobs and increasing profitability for farmers who produce some of the best quality food in the world. These new ideas and technologies help farmers manage their crops and get their products out of the fields and into new markets.”
In business since 1987, Martin’s is a leading growing, packer, wholesaler and processer of apples with over 700 acres in production. The company employs between 150-250 people in the Waterloo Region, depending on the season.
“This is huge because with innovation, there is a lot of risk and unknowns,” Martin’s Family Fruit Farm president Kevin Martin said. “Anytime you can have a partner that encourages and supports (innovation), that enables us to do things that we wouldn’t be able to do. It is so key because innovation is not optional for companies anymore; it is a requirement to stay in business. So this will help us to be sustainable, which is one of our key values, and it will help us grow and ultimately our main purpose is partnership with the agriculture community and this enables us to continue to invest in agriculture.”
The grant is made through the research and development stream of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agrilnnovation Program.
There is a lot of work to be done before the vegetable chips hit the market, including the honing of drying techniques –each vegetable requires a unique process- and focus group testing to ensure the product will be a hit with consumers.
But the federal government is confident the investment will provide a boost for the region’s agriculture industry.
“Our government is pleased to be a partner with projects that provide growth and new opportunities for Canadian farmers,” Albrecht said. “We want to help all entrepreneurs harness innovation so that our agriculture industry will continue to create jobs and growth for this prosperous and great country.”