Wool venture, fish filleting automation benefit from funding

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Two agri-food businesses in a pair of municipalities surrounding Thunder Bay are receiving a financial boost from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.

Borderlands Farm in the Municipality of Neebing received $193,638 from the Ontario government on Wednesday, while wild-caught fish processor Eat The Fish in the Municipality of Shuniah has been awarded $11,709.

Borderlands Farm secured the funds to build a wool mill, construct a storage building and buy equipment to produce lamb, wool products and garlic year-round.

“With (Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s) support, we can purchase the equipment and supplies needed to improve the viability and efficiency of our farm and launch a new wool venture that will enhance our sheep operation and provide a service to other farmers and producers in Northwestern Ontario who currently have to ship their fibre out of the region for processing,” said Bryan Barlow of Borderlands Farm, in a news release.

“This initiative is only possible because of (Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s) funding, and we are grateful for their support to date.”

Eat The Fish received the Heritage funding for new equipment and interior upgrades that will expand efficiency and processing volume through automation of their business.

“(Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s) support is helping us purchase specialized equipment that will increase fish processing efficiency, refrigeration capacity, raw material utilization and fish processing volume,” said Eat the Fish owner Paul Drombolis, in a news release. “The automation of filleting operations will also allow more fish to be purchased from regional harvesters, which will improve our competitiveness, create jobs in processing and improve consumer access to regionally sourced wild fish.”

Eight other agri-food businesses in Northern Ontario received a portion of the $1.8 million funding announced by Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford — minister of Northern Development — on Wednesday in Sudbury.

Also receiving funds on Wednesday were the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association ($645,400), Sudbury’s Don Poulin Potatoes Inc. ($395,400), Sundridge’s Marquee Farms ($200,000), Manitoulin Island’s Martin Agri Services ($200,000), Parry Sound’s Milford Bay Trout Farm Inc. ($131,130), Temiskaming’s Lely Center ($30,130), Thunder Bay’s Sweet North Bakery ($20,082) and Sudbury’s Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance ($15,000).

The investments are going towards helping local food production, creating jobs and stimulating expansion and diversification in the northern agri-food sector.

“The agri-food industry continues to have a crucial role in supporting the health and prosperity of our northern communities,” said Rickford, in a news release. “Our government is committed to expanding access to fresh, locally-produced food and we are proud to help agri-food businesses become a cornerstone of the Northern Ontario economy.”

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal