New Food Industry Grants Boost BC Businesses
In the coming weeks, food and beverage processors in British Columbia face a unique opportunity to quickly take advantage of new food industry grants from the provincial government. The BC Food Processing Growth Fund and the BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund together offer up to $380 million for cost-sharing initiatives aimed at enhancing the growth of the sector.
Indeed, BC’s food and beverage processing industry today employs over 40,000 people and draws $12B in sales every year, making it the second largest processing sector in the province. Speaking to the BC Food Processing Growth Fund (which has a deadline fast approaching), BC Food & Beverage CEO James Donaldson put it this way:
“By investing in B.C.’s food- and beverage-processing businesses, we are not only promoting economic growth and creating new job opportunities, but also ensuring the security and sustainability of our local food system. This fund will help these businesses scale up, innovate and stay competitive, while also increasing the use of locally sourced ingredients and products.”
In this article, we’ll lay out what you need to know to take advantage of these competitive grant programs – and how Icicle ERP is the perfect technology solution to scale up your business.
The BC Food Processing Growth Fund Aims to Strengthen Food Systems
The big ticket item is the BC Food Processing Growth Fund, which is part of a $200M commitment from the provincial government to support food security in the province. The fund is administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation (IAF) and there are only two intake rounds announced – one just closed yesterday (June 6) and the next one is on July 18.
That means that manufacturers have just over a month to submit their applications for projects up to $1M in cost-shared funding for infrastructure, equipment, training projects, product development, and more with up to 75% cost-sharing for eligible costs. The BC Food Processing Growth Fund is designed to support established, local businesses in scaling up their operations and “increase productivity, business opportunities, and competitiveness.”
Criteria for Established BC Food Businesses
While funding for smaller food and beverage processors is expected in the summer, this program is aimed at companies with over $500,000 in annual revenue that are looking to expand to new facilities, adopt new technologies, boost employee training, and improve their products and processes overall. Commercial food hubs, commissary kitchens, and industry groups and associations are also eligible.
In addition to the revenue requirement (which requires audited documentation), applicants must be in operation for at least two years and be located in British Columbia. Retail businesses, restaurants, and manufacturers of pet food, cannabis, alcohol-based beverages, and packaging materials are not eligible.
Applications that meet the high-priority criteria have the best chance of success, especially manufacturers of seafood, meat, and fruit and vegetable products. Companies making plant-based protein, dairy, or bakery and tortilla products, or beverages, or milling grain/oilseed are in the second priority category. Sugar and confectionary products and other foods are third-priority.
Another set of criteria is focused on benefits to the province. Your chances of success improve if you currently use BC inputs or will increase your procurement of BC inputs after the project is complete.
Projects to Enhance Local Production Capacity
Commercial food and beverage manufacturing involving general physical alterations (like crushing tomatoes or shredding cheese), extending shelf life (like freezing or pickling), or combining ingredients (like making muffins or mixing salad greens) are eligible. IAF outlines the following eligible costs and activities through the BC Food Processing Growth Fund:
- Investing in new technologies and systems to increases processing capacity, including software, digital, AI, and robotics technologies
- Capital investments to upgrade or expand facilities, infrastructure, and/or equipment, including renovations and new equipment to increase productivity/capacity
- Training to support new infrastructure and/or equipment, including upskilling for production staff, operational staff, etc. and specialized expertise (like food scientist, food engineers, software developers).
- R&D for new products and packaging, including access to lab equipment to improve shelf-life, nutrition, etc.
While IAF outlines eligible costs and activities, stacking of funds (combining funding from multiple food industry grants and other sources) is also permitted up to 90% except for some other IAF programs.
Applicants should hear back within a month of the review deadline (July 18).
The BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund Amplifies “Clean and Inclusive Growth”
Another food industry grant that recently became available is the BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund (MJF), which was announced in January to “help manufacturing companies modernize, innovate, and grow by providing funding for capital projects” across the province. Initially focused on the forestry sector, MJF was expanded to other manufacturers, including food and beverage, and the provincial government doubled the funding available from $90M to $180M.
High- Demand Sectors Poised for Sustainable Growth
The BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund is targeted towards high demand and high capacity manufacturing sectors that will contribute to economic resilience, diversification, and growth – especially in pressured rural and remote areas.
All applicants must be registered to do business in BC and have an established, financially viable manufacturing operation that currently employs workers. Similarly, the project described in the application must be located in BC and have demonstrated market potential and a high degree of readiness to proceed – and wrap up in 2-3 years.
Financial viability and market readiness are important criteria to keep in mind; one thing the review committee looks for is projects with multiple funding sources, including private investment, loans, and grants (though at least 25% of the money must come from the applicant). That also means that any market expansions need to come with regulatory compliance quickly – an expense that can be covered by this program.
Two Streams for Market-Ready Innovations
MJF funding is great for projects that aim to attract investment to BC and drive BC’s competitiveness worldwide. In particular, the program’s goals emphasize “clean and inclusive growth,” which includes supporting local workers, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, environmental sustainability and diversity, and developing sustainable supply chains.
The program has two streams. Stream 1 is targeted towards smaller planning projects and covers 50% of project costs up to $50K for completing final-stage business and project planning like operational and technical assessments, business plans, and risk analyses that help businesses prepare for investment.
For larger projects ready to proceed within one year of approval, Stream 2 covers around 20% of project costs between $500K and $100M, which can be used towards investing in new or renovated manufacturing infrastructure, technology, equipment, and processes. Eligible costs include:
- Capital expenditures (equipment, machinery, technology and construction materials)
- Wage or contract costs for net new project-specific labour
- Professional, contractor and subcontractor fees
- Freight or material transportation costs
- Installation and implementation costs
- Other time-limited costs directly related to project implementation
Though applications opened in February 2023, typically funds like these are used up before the program end date – and this one is really focused on immediate action. Companies with a good chance of success are encouraged to apply quickly.
For food manufacturers, sustainable supply chains and healthy local communities require a strong food safety culture and bulletproof traceability systems. Grant programs that support market expansion and technology improvements are perfect openings to adopt automation solutions like Icicle that bring gold-standard regulatory compliance into harmony with all other aspects of your business. As Allen from Honest Dumplings recently explained,
“Tracking raw materials, packaging, process control, and finished goods inventory are all critical to our food operations. Icicle has become integral to our operations and has become ‘2nd nature’ with our staff. Icicle has enabled us to meet and track our HACCP compliance with accuracy and reliability.”
The BC Food Processing Growth Fund and the BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund are both golden opportunities for local food and beverage manufacturers to boost their competitive edge and invest in long-term success for their businesses and local communities. The final bit of good news is that stacking food industry grants – combining funding from multiple sources – is often encouraged. Check which other opportunities can cover the next stage of growth, like the federal Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership program, the Canadian Digital Adoption Program’s Boost Your Business Technology grant, or Food Processing Skill’s Canada’s Student Work Placement program.
With resources available to back you up, now is the time to invest in positive transformations that will stand the test of time.