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Ontario craft brewery ramps up production with government funding

Growing Forward 2 funding is helping Wellington Brewery boost its production in Guelph, Ont.


Wellington Brewery's vice-president and co-owner Brent Davies

Wellington Brewery’s vice-president and co-owner Brent Davies

Time is always in short supply when you run a business. It’s something Brent Davies always seems to run out of. He’s vice-president and co-owner of Wellington Brewery, so finding the time to look into funding opportunities just never seems to rise to the top of his priority pile.

“When you are a small company, and trying to do everything, you just don’t have the manpower to investigate funding options,” says Brent. “But after successfully accessing three cost-sharing projects through Growing Forward 2, I would encourage other small business to find the time. It’s a well-run program and worth the effort.”

Wellington Brewery is Canada’s oldest independently owned craft brewery. Based in Guelph, Ont., for the past 30 years, the company employs 45 full-time and 17 part-time staff. “We have grown slowly over the years, on purpose. We want to grow within our means and stay true to supporting our local community with our core business in Guelph and the Kitchener-Waterloo area.”

Davies first heard about Growing Forward 2 funding through other members of Ontario Craft Breweries who had accessed funds.

After learning a little more about the program, Wellington Brewery decided to work with a business advisor – who had successfully worked with other breweries to access funding – to help them through the Growing Forward 2 application process.

Taking the time to apply has helped the brewery grow their business while maintaining their local craft feel. Wellington Brewery has had three projects approved through the fund. In 2014 they increased production capacity with new equipment and tanks. In 2015, they put in a new canning line that boosted the brewery’s capacity from 24 cans per minute to 180 cans per minute. Their third project, with funding recently approved, will add a new centrifuge providing both productivity and environmental benefits to their line. They’ll be able to further increase capacity, produce less overall wastewater, increase production yield from each batch of beer, and improve the quality of remaining wastewater. A pilot trial of the centrifuge conducted prior to the submitting their application provided confidence in this investment. The new equipment will also give Wellington’s brewers more opportunities for experimenting with creative new ideas.

“We have focused so far on the production side with funding,” says Brent. “We’re now looking at venturing into other areas of the business, like marketing, that are also available through Growing Forward 2.”

Davies’ advice to other small business that could benefit from cost-share funding: Don’t wait. “Look at the Growing Forward 2 Program Guide book. And if you don’t have the time yourself, it does pay to get outside help to get it done.”

“It’s a very well run program that has helped us make a big different to our productivity,” says Brent. “And when we weren’t successful with an application, we received very helpful feedback that helped us out the next time.”

Article available courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Growing Forward 2 is a five-year federal/provincial/territorial initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector. Growing Forward 2 ends March 31, 2018. In Ontario, Growing Forward 2 supports farm, food and other agri-businesses to help grow their profits, expand their markets and manage risks.


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