Jan 25, 2018
Michigan gives grants to aquaponics, apple storage projects

An aquaponics project and a new apple storage facility in Michigan will be supported by two grants from the Food and Agriculture Investment Program .

During its regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 24, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to award two Food and Agriculture Investment Program grants to Always Local and Hartford Farm Supply.

Always Local LLC is developing a new large-scale commercial aquaponics farm in Caledonia with a primary product of fresh salad mix and locally raised fish. The facility will produce products under the brand name Revolution Farms and will provide a fresh salad mix product that can be sourced in West Michigan. Currently, 95 percent of the lettuce we eat comes from outside the region. Growing local food will provide a fresher product, create jobs and investment in Michigan, and reduce truck miles and time that product is in transit.

“The Revolution Farms team is extremely excited about developing a cutting-edge sustainable farm to deliver fresher and healthier produce to our fellow citizens in West Michigan and beyond,” said CEO Tripp Frey. “We are ecstatic about being a part of the farm revolution and being a leader in sustainable agriculture.”

The company was awarded a $50,000 performance-based grant to construct a state-of-the-art 55,000 square-foot Venlo style glass greenhouse and a 35,000 square-foot warehouse on a site in Caledonia. The project will require a $3.3 million investment and is expected to create up to 12 new jobs in the first phase.

Once operational, the facility will produce a fresh salad mix and locally raised fish, with first harvest expected in late summer 2018. Operations will include an aquaculture system and a cutting-edge aquaponics system and assembly line. The project will also include space for packing and logistics. Once fully operational, the project is expected to have eight greenhouses.

Hartford Farm Supply, which operates under the name Paw Paw River Produce, will construct a controlled atmosphere storage facility in Hartford, Michigan. The project will allow for greater capacity and more efficient storage for apples that are grown in Southwest Michigan and the Traverse City region. The 13,440 square-foot facility will increase storage capacity, allowing for additional days of packing and keeping Michigan apples on the shelves in retail stores longer. The project will also reduce the need for apple imports, prevent apples from leaving the state for storage, and expand the customer footprint for Michigan growers.

The company was awarded a $75,000 performance-based grant to construct the facility, which will provide storage for eight to ten growers. The project will require a $1.2 million investment and is expected to be completed prior to the fall harvest season.

“Southwest Michigan has a shortage of controlled atmosphere storage, so this project will be a great start in helping bridge the gap between growers and the packing house,” said owner/manager Jason Meachum. “From the packing house perspective, more controlled atmosphere storage equates to more packing days, which leads to more opportunities for workers.”

“Whenever we have the opportunity to help Michigan food and agriculture businesses expand, improve their operations, and create more jobs, that’s a good day,” said MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams. “These two projects not only have a direct impact on their local economies, but they also help provide more fresh, locally-grown products throughout the year to everybody who lives in our great state.”

The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for food and agriculture projects that help expand food and agriculture processing to enable growth in the industry and Michigan’s economy. Projects are selected based on their impact to the overall agriculture industry and their impact to food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.

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