After consideration of all the input gained in this project, we have consolidated our ACTION PLAN. We realize that the piecemeal approach to supporting small scale food processors is itself a big challenge. We want to work with Partners and Government to institute a reliable ECOSYSTEM of SUPPORT. Thriving ecosystems have been shown to substantially benefit entrepreneurship in specific sectors.
Each aspect of the ecosystem encompasses many components—watch as the SSFPA and our Partners work together as we build-out this ecosystem together.
Success does breed success by feeding back to enhance the six domains of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, there is a tipping point at which government involvement can and should be significantly reduced; not eliminated but reduced. Once the six domains are strong enough, they are mutually reinforcing, and public leaders do not have to invest quite so much to sustain them. In fact, it is critical that entrepreneurship programs are designed to be self-liquidating in order to focus on building sustainability into the environment.
Daniel Isenberg – Intelligent Evolution (The Economist)
WHAT the SSFPA IS DOING TO BUILD OUT THIS ECOSYSTEM
Leadership: The SSFPA brings the message from our membership to a wide variety of fora. The SSFPA has built new programs and systems to benefit our members as well as becoming involved in system advocacy and development. Importantly, there is growing recognition of the need for the food system to address critical challenges: climate change, increased nutritional value in food products, equity towards producers and workers etc.
Partnership: The SSFPA is a small and nimble organization with a substantial track record. An early realization was that instead of building a top-heavy organization, we would go faster and further through creating partnerships with organizations with compatible values that have strengths needed by our members.
Incubation: The SSFPA has created many tools and programs to help people who wish to create a food business. To demonstrate the importance of a well-supported Incubation Phase, we developed virtual training in partnership with Mission Skills Centre Society and together have found funding to offer a suite of training programs.
Acceleration: A start-up food enterprise that attracts a new and large demand too often find the leap into the commercial market brings several critical challenges: They need to upgrade their recipe and get assistance from a Food Technologist to build their nutritional table, best before date etc. They need to find or try and create a processing facility that can produce a much greater quantity of packaged and labelled product. They need to create new distribution networks. All of this requires the SSFP to learn new skills, hire staff, find money, and build management capacity. There are a few Accelerator Programs offered across Canada, but we wish to see an ongoing program of support. In partnership with Farm Food Drink, we were able to launch a pilot specialty accelerator program *Food Business REFRESH* that proved the merits of this kind of support.
Access to Finance: The SSFPA is working on creating a Peer Lending Program to support women’s start-up ventures. We are also working on developing partnerships to create an investment pool for food businesses. We also recognize that there is a huge need for investment in food manufacturing infrastructure. These issues have been documented and reported over and over again. Watch for announcements when our initiatives come to fruition!
Market Development: Pivoting to cope with COVID 19, increased online markets are emerging. The SSFPA will be establishing its own online market— watch for announcements! The Government of BC’s Feed BC program is encouraging/requiring government funded institutions to purchase from BC producers and processors. This market channel can be critically important for SSFP’s.
Regional infrastructure: Most communities across Canada used to have factories for processing locally produced or gathered inputs. The corporatization of the food system gradually destroyed them through mergers, acquisitions, or through price wars. The result is that consumers are mostly reliant on food processed by large conglomerate companies (Agropoly_BerneDeclaration). However, COVID 19 revealed the vulnerability of these huge, centralized manufacturing systems. Rebuilding regional infrastructure now makes sense. The SSFPA has been involved with the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries in the launch of the Food Hub program in BC which is a step in the direction of rebuilding local and regional food production capacity. Much more needs to be done. Some of our members have had such great success that they have been able to finance building their own processing facilities. Another idea would be for a group of SSFP’s in one region getting together to create a co-operative manufacturing facility.
AGRI-Tech: Technologies at every level of the economy are ‘disrupting’ the industrial-based economy. Technologies are emerging in the food system from business services such as on-line shopping to the emergence of cell-based meat alternatives, new protein sources and non-dairy milk products for example. Some of these new technological solutions can benefit the work of farmers and small-scale food processors. The SSFPA is investigating these new methodologies and considering how best to support our members. We are part of the new ‘Agri-Tech Engine’ led by Bioenterprise (see https://bioenterprise.ca). We recognize that many of our members are already innovators at the leading edge of the technological evolution. Check out a webinar by the Abbotsford Tech District focusing on the ‘future of food’ to learn more.
Research, Policy and Innovation: The more we learn about how the food entrepreneurship affects women, the more we learn about the problems inherent in the food system. Watch for updates on our Policy Research Project page. Many questions are emerging as the food system realigns and changes based upon climate, equity, and financial challenges. The United Nations is challenging everyone to adopt and implement sustainability standards through their ESG protocol. ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’ concerns need to be addressed if food system development is to lead us to a healthier, equitable and sustainable future.