The Food Ecosystems Project (FEP) was initiated in partnership with Food and Beverage Manitoba and Community Futures Manitoba, with support from industry partners Fireweed Food Co-op, Manitoba Agriculture, EDIT (Economic Development Investment and Trade), amongst others. Utilizing an industry-led, partnered approach, our goal was to understand why many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Manitoba’s agri-food industry struggle to succeed, fail to grow, and what supports are needed to ensure a vibrant, resilient, and thriving agri-food system in our Province. The focus of our project was on SMEs because despite the perception that this sector is dominated by large multinational enterprises (MNE), most agri-food entrepreneurs in Manitoba are SMEs with 1-10 employees.

The Food Ecosystems Project focuses on the exploration and mobilization of Food Incubation, Innovation and Production Hubs that provide flexible, adaptable services to entrepreneurs. We envision a centralized Hub connected to a series of smaller interconnected hubs (spokes) throughout the Province, bringing together entrepreneurs, artisans, growers, fishers and ranchers. The hubs will house services that assist SMEs to navigate the unique product development, commercialization, marketing, regulatory and financing environments characteristic of the food and agriculture sector. The vision is to use hubs to provide shared access to ingredients and packaging, costly equipment, storage facilities and processing capabilities, as well as offering mentorship and business development expertise to enable smart risk taking and innovation within a supportive environment.


Phase 1 of the FEP was undertaken between May 2022 and May 2023 and included in-person asset mapping sessions in Winnipeg (two), Arborg, Gimli, Stonewall, Niverville, Brandon, Neepawa, Portage la Prairie, OCN/The Pas, Flin Flon, and Thompson and were attended by over 120 unique participants. One-on-one interviews with 50 SMEs were completed, and partnerships with various service delivery providers throughout the sector helped inform the results. Through Phase 1, we also produced multiple supportive research documents which are summarized further below.

The data assembled through our project describes the current capacity in Manitoba to support food product development, from farm, to commercialization and marketing, to the end consumer.  Sources of information included primary (interviews and workshops) and secondary (web-based) research from SMEs, government departments, non-government or community-based organizations, and other support organizations. Key learnings and best practices across Canada were also identified in the areas of funding, leadership and market driven focus and economic impacts, as well as other characteristics. Final research documents produced through this research included:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Manitoba Food Development Facilities, Kitchens and Food Hubs Environmental Scan
  3. Canadian Food Clusters and Food Hubs Environmental Scan
  4. Asset Mapping Report Summary
  5. Regional Asset Mapping Reports
  6. Economic & Business Sustainability Modelling Report
  7. Interview Summary