It can be difficult for scientists in lab coats and businesspeople in three-piece suits to communicate because they work in distinct worlds and use jargon specific to their trade.
However, food processors in Manitoba are hoping a commercialization centre can bridge the cultural divide between researchers and entrepreneurs.
On Jan. 16 at Ag Days in Brandon, federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced funding of $441,000 to the Manitoba Food Processors Association (MFPA) for projects to help entrepreneurs put innovative food products on store shelves.
“Our job is to create programs that assist entrepreneurs and existing businesses establish their operations and increase their competitive strength in the market,” said MFPA executive director Dave Shambrock.
“Many of the new products that small companies are bringing to market are based on some of the unique compounds that are found in our local crops and the incredible health benefits that these products have to consumers.”
The association will use part of the funding to study the feasibility of a food product service centre in Manitoba.
If constructed, it will allow developers of novel food to work directly with researchers studying the medicinal benefits of buckwheat, flax and pulses.
“The real opportunity is getting researchers to be working more closely with industry on projects that are close to being commercially viable,” Shambrock said.
“We’re looking at an industry-run, business support centre that will have on-site resources and office space for up to 15 new companies that are commercializing their food business ideas.”
Manitoba now has two research centres where scientists study the health benefits of Canadian crops: the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals and the Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine.
Ritz said harnessing that research and the energy of start-up companies should enhance Manitoba’s agriculture industry.
“We’ve been hewers of wood and drawers of water,” he said.
“Anytime we can add value to those commodities, it’s certainly good for the Canadian economy.”
The association will also develop a program to allow experienced food processors to mentor novice food product entrepreneurs.