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This company started selling its product in exchange for craft beer, now it's expanding again

Escarpment Laboratories Inc., which supplies yeast to pro brewers, is targeting a new market — home brewers

When Angus Ross and his business partner Richard Preiss began growing yeast as U of G graduate students, they came up with an interesting business model.

“We started doing yeast work for Royal City Brewing in exchange for beer,” said Ross.

After a few years of growing their business — and accepting actual money as payment — Escarpment Laboratories, Inc. sells yeast to a number of other pro brewers.

Now Escarpment Laboratories is thinking smaller to grow their business by taking $14,238 from a joint federal-provincial agri-food funding initiative to begin selling to a new market for them.

“We haven’t really been able to tap into the home brew market in an efficient way because we haven’t had the correct packaging. With this money we were able to purchase a new packaging apparatus that will allow us to package into smaller packages and do it faster so we can distribute to homebrewing shops all across the country,” said Ross.

Escarpment Laboratories is one of 10 local projects sharing over $400,000 in funding from the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) initiative.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield and Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph, were on hand for an announcement of the funding during an event Friday at Royal City Brewing Co.

The craft brewery was also a recipient of funding from GF2, accepting over $42,000 toward adding a canning line.

Royal City Brewing co-owner Cam Fryer said adding the canning line — which went operational in August — has been a big success for the business, allowing it to sell into new markets like supermarkets.

“It’s has allowed us to package substantially more product and we’ll be able to take advantage of more of the retail options available to us,” said Fryer.

The addition of the canning line meant adding additional staff to the brewery.

“We have a full-time canning guy and we will likely have a full time warehouse guy very shortly as well, just to manage all of the extra product we can make now,” said Fryer.

Longfield said the GF2 funding is split 60/40 between the federal and provincial governments.

Using the Escarpment Laboratories and Royal City Brewing as an example, Longfield said supporting the whole supply chain by funding these agri-food projects benefits everybody.

“Here we have locally produced yeast going into locally produced beer and then feeding the local market,” said Longfield.

A five-year initiative introduced in 2013, GF2 will be replaced by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which launches on April 1.

In addition to Royal City Brewing and Escarpment Laboratories, the following businesses also received GF2 funding:

  • Rootham's Gourmet Preserves Ltd. received $57,869 to purchase and install an automated packaging line to improve labour productivity and efficiency to facilitate further market expansions. 
  • Woodrill Farms Ltd. received $34,475 to purchase a mobile mixing unit to help improve labour productivity and product quality. 
  • Puresource Inc. received $92,750 to purchase and install a new encapsulator to help increase labour productivity and production output. 
  • Escarpment Laboratories Inc. received $14,238 to purchase and install new equipment to help increase automation and labour productivity; and increase production output to meet market demand. 
  • Dixon's Distilled Spirits will receive up to $4,250 for consulting services to complete a feasibility study.