by SUSAN MANN
A Canadian produce company is building a new, state-of-the-art potato packing facility in east Flamborough and moving its operations out of Toronto with the help of provincial funding.
EarthFresh received $496,875 from the Ontario government’s Rural Economic Development program Wednesday to construct the 40,000-square-foot fresh potato washing, packing and distribution plant. The project is valued at $5.5 million.
The new plant will replace the company’s existing facility on Browns Line in Toronto.
Marketing manager Stephanie Cutaia says construction will begin in the fall and the new plant will be operational by the early summer of 2012. Plans for the building include constructing it to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards. It’s all about sustainability and includes water and energy efficiency, she says.
“Our goal is to fit into the farming environment,” she explains, noting they’ll grow some potatoes on land around the building and enable employees to have small plots so they can grow their own vegetables.
The building’s farm-style kitchen will be used to teach cooking classes and for healthy food education seminars for employees and the community. “What we really want to promote is growing, farming, fresh and local,” she says, noting they’re eager to get involved in school programs.
In its press release, the Ontario agriculture ministry says the new plant will help EarthFresh to:
• nearly triple its processing capacity;
• decrease production costs and increase sales by $15 million within two years;
• expand into new markets with new product offerings; and
• create 44 new jobs and retain 70 existing positions.
EarthFresh sells its potatoes across Canada and some are exported into the Untied States. The company sources as much of its potatoes in Ontario as it can, Cutaia says. But when the season ends here and the company uses up what it has in cold storage, it sources potatoes from California and Idaho. BF