Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 16, 2014

Innovation hub an effort to boost food production, cooperation

TRAVERSE CITY -- Craft breweries are becoming wildly popular throughout Michigan and, with success, there is high demand for hops. Thanks to shared productions facilities through the new Grand Traverse Regional Foodshed Alliance, the Michigan Hop Alliance is growing its capacity to serve a greater portion of the market with locally grown hops.

More value-added food businesses are expected to follow suit during the next several months.

The Michigan Hop Alliance is the first of what may grow to eight to 10 tenants at the Foodshed Alliance’s new 12,000-square-foot food innovation hub located in the former Glacier Dome at 1610 Barlow Street in Traverse City.

The hub shares space with Cherry Capital Foods, which runs its operations in the remaining portion of the 48,000-square-foot facility.

The Grand Traverse Regional Foodshed Alliance grew from the Food and Farm Network and was formed as a nonprofit to manage its portion of the space.

Local value-added businesses will have access to flexible space, shared production equipment, conference rooms and like-minded agricultural entrepreneurs. Leases are still be negotiated, but leaders are excited about the collaboration, as well as the potential for a successful operation.

“There is nothing like this in northern Michigan,” said Rob Sirrine, a Michigan State University community food systems educator, who added tenants could include charcuterie, bakers, canning lab testing and various other value-added endeavors.

The level of collaboration will be determined by the needs and shared interests of those involved.

“It will be up to the tenants on how to organize … but they are able to co-locate and reap the benefits of shared storage, supplies and equipment … and it all benefits the local agricultural economy,” Sirrine said.

‘A blessing’

The venture brings far broader and more cost-effective processing resources to the region’s smaller farmers and food businesses than most would be able to access on their own.

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