Day’s Century Growers

Day’s Century Growers

Day’s Century have been farming in the Okanagan Region for almost as long as there’s been farming in the Okanagan. In the late 1890’s, Ephraim Day homesteaded property in the heart of Kelowna and over five generations the family holdings have since expanded to encompass over 136 acres.

This includes the largest pear orchard in the province, distributing Bartlett, Bosc and Green and Red D’Anjou pears across North America. The family also sells freshly picked vegetables, fruit and sweet corn in their own farm market.

“Almost 75% of our revenue comes from pears, yet it’s probably just a little over a quarter of the actual ground we farm,” says Kevin Day, who runs the current operation with his sister Karen Day. “According to my grandfather, this area is the best pear growing land in Canada. Very, very high quality. It’s a combination of climate, the heavy clay loam soil, the nearness of the lake, really just so many reasons.”

In 2012, the Day’s made a bold move to take control of their pears. “My sister and I felt we could manage our crop more efficiently if we removed ourselves from the pool system. So we built our own packing house, taking responsibility for the storage, packing and shipping of the pears we grow. Fortunately, it’s worked out.”

The family stepped things up again in 2019 when they installed a state-of-the-art packing machine and a high-resolution optical pear-sorting system, the first of its kind in Canada. The system scans pears for external defects, taking sixty images of each pear to ensure the highest quality and proper grading.

“It’s such a cool experience to have dinner and to know that everything we’re eating was grown on the farm.”

“Food safety and the retail marketplace demand you touch the fruit as little as possible,” Day explains. “Pears are very prone to surface scuffing. In Holland, more than 50% of their tree fruits are pears, so when they design equipment, they design it for pears. Whereas any other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the United States, their machines are geared for maybe 90% apple-use and 10% pears. So I knew I’d be able to find the best machine in Holland, one designed specifically for pears.”

“Optical sorting was a big step for us to please retailers. Each pear is touched only twice; once when it’s picked into the bin and then months later when it’s packed into a box. It’s both labour efficient and complies with food safety regulations.”

This innovation has changed other lives in the Day family, too. Daughter Kati is the company’s Communication Manager and other daughter Erin is Operations Manager, with her husband Riley handling Shipping and Receiving. As the next generation, Erin and Riley oversee all aspects of the farm, including growing, harvesting and production of feed crops, carrying on the legacy of the Day family.

“Properly managing our highest-value farm commodity has changed our lives substantially. We were quite diversified before, but the packing house has ensured that all of our other diversification isn’t being drained to put into the pear crop.”

“All my life I’ve known working alongside my dad on the farm was pretty important to me,” says Erin. “I was drawn to it as young as eleven years old, when I had my first job in the fruit stand, working alongside my aunt. When I started my post-secondary education in 2013, I was going for my bachelor’s in biology, with an emphasis on botany. At that time, we’d already been packing our own fruit for two years and that’s kind of where my dad’s attitude changed. Things started to prove themselves with the packing line and the new business, so instead of, ‘You need to get an education, get a career, farming is not viable,’ he started calling us back, giving us all the information we needed to make this jump.”

“In 2016, after about half of my degree was finished, I decided to change my direction and started full-time on the production line in the packing facility. Then about seven months in I got a promotion and I just kind of moved up from there. I’m Operations and Food Safety Manager for Day’s Century Growers now.”

“I think it’s a very attractive lifestyle,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s such a cool experience to have dinner and to know that everything we’re eating was grown on the farm. I can’t wait for the day when I can raise my kids on our family farm and teach them what I know about the importance of hard work and growing your own food.”

Waterplay

“Basically, anything you see in a public, open space we either manufacture or source and then sell. Playgrounds, spray parks, street furniture and amenities such as benches, shade structures, washroom facilities, tree grates, bike racks, litter bins, you name it.”

“Depending on how you segment our industry, we would be the second or third largest supplier of equipment for splash pads in the world and a similar position for the suppliers of park and playground equipment across Western Canada.”

“Of course as a manufacturer dependent upon the export market, proximity to a growing international airport is important,” she adds. “Since moving from Penticton, we’ve grown from nine employees to seventy locally, with about twenty-five more who are based elsewhere.”

After three decades, the company still adheres to its rather lofty goal; “for every child to have access to an amazing park within a ten minute walk of their home. For a vast array of reasons, but most importantly for the social fabric of society, equitable access to quality parks should be deemed essential.”

“Here in the Okanagan, we’ve achieved a lot, but not every child has access to a high quality park nearby. In those terms, we have a lot to do still as an industry advocate. I haven’t counted, but I’m guessing we’ve contributed product to perhaps 75 – 100 parks in the Okanagan and that has a pretty big impact locally. So there is a certain amount of success in that to be proud of.”

Pela

After seeing plastic debris in the water around Hawaii, Saskatoon environmental consultant Jeremy Lang felt compelled to do something about it. So, in 2011 he helped invent Flaxstic®, a tough but compostable material made from flax straw. Then he started making phone cases. Then things got interesting.

After meeting Jeremy in 2015, entrepreneur Matt Bertulli invested in Pela, and soon became CEO. “I didn’t particularly care too much that he was making phone cases,” says Bertulli. “But I definitely liked that he had this compostable material that seemed to have a better end of life than plastic. So I was really interested in what else it could be used for.”

The company went on to diversify. “Now we have all kinds of other compostable accessories like smart watch straps and Airpod cases. We’re also making sunglasses and lenses from special polymers that are landfill biodegradable. We own a personal care brand for deodorant, shampoo and conditioner and currently have several new products we’re working on. Pela is a brand that makes products with a graceful end of life. The idea is to get rid of plastic waste.”

“While looking for a location, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Kelowna were all options. We flew out here at seven in the morning and met with the mayor and then Corie and Krista from COEDC. In just one day I think we met anybody and everybody in Kelowna. They were really welcoming.”

“The thing that surprised us was everybody was singing the same tune. In Toronto, there’s a lot of different businesses competing for attention and here was Kelowna telling us they’re really focused on startups and tech. The community was clearly thriving and it seemed like a really good place for business. So Jeremy and I moved here with all the injection molding machines and set up a small manufacturing facility.”

“I think my initial fears around a city this size was just recruiting talent locally, finding certain senior levels of people. But it’s been pretty easy so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We’ve managed to attract some pretty wicked people.”

“The lifestyle here is awesome. I’m a mountain biker and I like to ski and this place facilitates a very active outdoor lifestyle. And that’s also great for the kind of brand we’re building. We attract those kinds of people and they’re creating the kind of culture we need to build.”

“The perception is the pace of work here is slower, but people are just as effective and they get more done and they’re just happier. So this has been very refreshing. Sort of like a restart to my entrepreneurial journey.”

How does Bertulli sum up that journey?

“We liken it to surfing. We happened to be in the water with a surfboard and a very large wave came along and we happened to know how to surf very, very well. So it’s all just good luck but the right sequence of events counts. I call it a really good return on luck.”

“Pela is a brand that makes products with a graceful end of life. The idea is to get rid of plastic waste.”


Matt Bertulli
CEO, Pela

Yeti Farm

Rocket Monkeys. Pete the Cat. Angry Birds. Beat Bugs. DNAce. Hotel Transylvania. Any of these animated series ring a bell? If not, maybe you’re familiar with where they’re playing: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Nickelodeon Teletoon, Corus, YouTube.

It’s big time stuff for Yeti Farm, the Kelowna-based digital animation studio that has hit warp speed in the last few years. Animating shows under contract for other companies, they’ve steadily expanded to the point where they’re writing, developing and pitching their own series. Recently three ideas have been green lit to develop into prime-time pilots, one of them a live action series. How did this all happen?

Rewind to 2007. Creative guy Todd Ramsey has been working as an animator and director in Vancouver, while Ashley has been producing various children’s animated shows. After starting their own company and becoming parents, they decided in 2010 to move closer to family in Kelowna.

“It was a huge risk and took us a few years to get going” Ashley explains. “The animation industry was just beginning here. There was Disney, then Bardel Animation and The Centre for Arts and Technology was teaching animation. So we were lucky we had lots of existing relationships outside the region to build on.”

In 2012 the couple rented space, hired five students from the school and secured their first roster of work with Electronic Arts, producing the heads on the athletes in various games like FIFA, UFC and NHL. “Pretty soon we signed a three-year lock-in output deal with Atomic Cartoons for Netflix shows like Rocket Monkeys and Beat Bugs, and that was when it really took off. 2013 to 2016 was pretty megascale, scaling up to about 50 employees. Then we expanded again, and by 2019 we had about 160 artists and a 7,000 square foot studio space.”

“Starting out I think we definitely benefited from a blend of support systems with municipal, provincial and federal aid behind us.

While we were scaling up, I worked weekly with advisors looking at different financial models and how to handle our operation, which was changing drastically. We also participated on the advisory board of Okanagan College to shape their animation program so it would fit our talent needs and they really supported us in that.”

“Now that we’re a certain size, we benefit from the BC Film and Media Tax Credits (17.5%). There are also unique tax credit bonuses for being in this region (12% Regional + 6% Distance) which gives us a bit of an edge in terms of our competitors in a tough market, particularly against the overseas studios. The animation industry here is definitely bigger because of our studio. It’s basically grown from zero to one of the mid-sized employers of the area, maybe tripled in size. Now with the pivot in our studio space strategy (they’ve gone 100% mobile since COVID-19), I think it presents more opportunities for ourselves and our staff.”

“Today we’re producing three prime-time pilots. Prime-time animation is a totally different category in animated content, which is emerging because live action shoots have been discontinued for the foreseeable future. This is where I see huge potential. Then we’re also producing our own animated property, Sweet Tweets, and are in development with a Canadian network for Kick Flip, a girl’s live action sports dramedy to be shot locally.” “It can be seen as very brave to start a studio here, but it’s also been a very selfless and humbling thing. Todd and I are both really proud and grateful. We feed and build families.”

“A lot of people in the studio now have kids and homes and mortgages and cars and it’s kind of neat, right?”

Where else can they lead a really healthy balanced lifestyle where they animate in the morning, hike in the afternoon and then hop back on at night? “That’s the best part about the lifestyle here. Oh, and the wine. Which every stressed-out entrepreneur needs a lot of.”

“We were also part of the early days of Accelerate Okanagan and that definitely helped me as an entrepreneur.”

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

Serving as the CEO of ‘Canada’s most visited winery’, Ezra Cipes is part of the second generation at Summerhill, a pioneering winery producing 100% organic wine. What makes Summerhill so unique? A pyramid wine cellar, second only to the Great Pyramids of Egypt for alignment and precision, in which the family allows their organic and biodynamic wines to rest before release.

“My parents moved our young family here from the suburbs of New York in 1986 for a total change of life,” explains Cipes, one of four brothers. “I am so grateful they did. It was just a little farming community, no modern wine industry at all. They both helped build the modern wine industry in BC and were founding members of the BC Vintners Quality Alliance and of the BC Wine Institute.”

On arriving in 1986, Ezra’s father, Stephen, believed he’d found unique conditions to produce “intensely flavoured small grapes,” the perfect base for sparkling wine. He brought grape clones from France and “personally planted them on his hands and knees.” After entering the organic certification program in 1988, Cipes Sr. produced his first vintage in 1991 and the winery received Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012.

“We’re a mid-sized winery with a large team, mostly because of the extensive hospitality we offer,” says Ezra. “We have a beautiful restaurant and banquet room, both overlooking the vineyard, lake, and mountains.”

“For us, the next level of success will be seeing our wines on restaurant lists in major centers around the world. Certain wines we make are absolutely relevant to the global wine market because of their outstanding quality and a taste that can come from nowhere but the Okanagan.”

“For us, the next level of success will be seeing our wines on restaurant lists in major centers around the world. Their outstanding quality and taste can come from nowhere but the Okanagan.”

Indigenous World Winery

Indigenous World Winery is the brainchild of Robert and Bernice Louie, descendants of the Syilx first peoples who have lived in the Okanagan for generations. Back in 2011, the couple secured 2.5 acres to start a vineyard and joined forces with winemaker Jason Parkes to make wines that could compete at a world level.

“The goal was a big award winner,” explains spokesperson Ryan Widdup. “They wanted to open the doors with some big showpiece red wines.” So while the couple were planting their first vines and building their facility in 2013, Parkes had already been crafting wines for them at a nearby estate winery. “Jason spent a lot of time crafting a small production red called Simo, and in 2015 it won two medals and the first Double Gold Medal a few months before we opened the wine shop in 2016.”

Since then, the gold and silver medals have kept on coming, with the 2014 Simo receiving Double Gold at the 2019 All Canadian Wine Championships, beating out 1,378 other entries. In addition, their wines have earned gold at many international competitions in the United States and Europe.

In 2020, the winery launched their Indigenous Spirits craft alcohol line, starting with vodka.

“We’ve been working on a gin recipe using botanicals and locally sourced ingredients with a medicinal history in the Syilx culture. We also have eight barrels of whiskey that turn three years old this year, so we’re going to release a single barrel and a barrel-blend single malt. So that’s really exciting.”

Located across Okanagan Lake in West Kelowna, making it an ideal spot for meetings and events, the winery is sited on land belonging to Westbank First Nation. “Robert and Bernice are very proud of where they come from,” says Widdup. “The focus of the winery is not to necessarily be a cultural learning place, but it is a part of the family’s heritage and they are passionate about sharing their culture. Wine is an exceptional way to showcase the terroir of traditional lands that have sustained their people for thousands of years.”

Indigenous World Winery also understands the importance of giving back to the community. Robert Louie was the elected Chief of Westbank First Nation for decades, serving on many boards and band businesses, in addition to being Chair of the National First Nations Advisory Board. “Robert travels a lot, so Bernice is the main person in the family who oversees the winery’s day to day operations,” Widdup explains.

Widdup himself grew up in an agricultural community in rural Saskatchewan. “When I got into the wine industry in BC, I thought it would be quite competitive. Instead, it’s very collaborative. Everybody knows everybody and they really support each other. The interesting thing about being situated in West Kelowna is that there’s huge diversity. We’ve got two of the biggest wineries in all of BC up the road and some of the smallest ones right next door.”

“Winemaking is essentially glamour farming, to steal a phrase from the folks up at 50th Parallel Estate Winery. But it’s incredibly interesting because every year is different. It’s the one industry where you could know everything about every wine in the world this year and then next year you have to go out and learn every single wine all over again because everything’s changed.”

“The industry here is less than forty years old,” says Widdup. “Right now we’re still in the pioneering phase. We’re not like California, Oregon or Chile where these industries are hundreds of years old, we’ve only been doing it for a short amount of time. We’re attracting a huge amount of talent from all across the globe to come here and make their name and discover what it is to make wine in BC, so it’s extremely exciting and I’m very proud to be part of this industry.”

“It’s also amazing to be a part of a community where everybody is really trying to help each other out. It was especially cool during the pandemic, just the number of trade and tourism industries that tried to bring everybody together to share their stories and best practices and what they’ve learned. I think if anything, it strengthened the community even more.”

“We’re attracting a huge amount of talent all across the globe to come here and make their name and discover what it is to make wine in BC.”

Okanagan Spirits

“We hand craft terroir-driven spirits entirely from 100% local grains and fruits that present the true flavours and aromas of the Okanagan Valley,”

says Tyler Dyck, CEO and Director of Operations. “We feel each and every one of our spirits tell a story, which by extension, is our family’s story to tell. That’s why it’s so important to us that our grains and fruits come from local fields and orchards. Farm-to-flask is truly in everything we do, from our premium whiskies, gins, vodkas, liqueurs, brandies, aquavit and even traditional absinthe.”

OK Spirits is also committed to reducing their impact on the environment. “After we finish mashing, all edible materials go back to feed local livestock. We even use distilling by-products to power all our vehicles to cut down on emissions.”

“To us, success is all about creating a legacy that will outlive each of us presently at the helm of our family distillery. We’ve spent the last two decades travelling the world learning from the very best distillers and brewers, immersing ourselves in everything spirits. We also participate biennially in the World Spirits Awards Competition in Austria to have our spirits judged with the very best distillers in the world.”

“The Okanagan region is an ideal spot for true farm- to-flask authentic spirits production, as it really is one of the best spots on the planet for agriculture. It also has a community that’s keenly invested in supporting local tourism and agricultural partners.” says Dyck, “we’re all passionate about seeing the success of the Okanagan region, with the goal of establishing this valley as the place to be in Canada.”

QHR

The innovative healthcare technology company produces a suite of industry- leading products designed to streamline medical practices. Their flagship product is AccuroEMR, Canada’s largest single-platform electronic medical record software.

Mike Checkley, President of QHR and one of the three original developers of AccuroEMR, explains how it came about. “I studied Computer Science right here in the Okanagan. It’s been an amazing experience to see it grow from those early days to now the largest tech company in the Okanagan with customers all across the country.”

QHR has two more products in market: FreedomRx, an e-prescription management tool for pharmacists and Pharmacy EMR, which helps pharmacy staff manage their professional services. Both of these are now used in over 1,200 Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies in Canada, following Loblaws’ purchase of QHR in 2016.

QHR currently has 523 employees across Canada, with 368 of those in the Kelowna head office. “Our market is all across Canada, but from a talent perspective Kelowna continues to deliver,” says Checkley.

“Kelowna is on the map now, not only as a tourist destination, but also for new business, maturing business, and as a result, career opportunities.”

Two Hat Security

Since 2012, his company’s AI- driven content moderation platform has been identifying and preventing harmful online behaviour, including cyberbullying, abuse, hate speech, violent threats and child exploitation, all while enforcing rules of conduct in online communities.

“Some of the largest companies in the world trust our team to keep their users safe,” Priebe explains. “We now process over 100 billion human interactions every month. To put it in perspective, that’s six times the reported size of Twitter.”

Two Hat’s success was recognized in 2017 when they were awarded the largest MITACS cluster grant of over three million dollars to work with universities.

“We looked all over Canada for leading universities to partner with, and to our surprise, one of our best has been here at home with UBC Okanagan.”

Most recently, the World Economic Forum selected Two Hat as one of its most promising Technology Pioneers of 2020 for its groundbreaking platform, offering the opportunity to engage with other industry leaders and work with public and private experts.

When asked about the infrastructure in place to help get his organization off the ground, Priebe credits the many programs designed to support start-ups here in the Okanagan. “Accelerate Okanagan has definitely been a great friend and supporter of Two Hat and our mission,” says Priebe. “I was still in my basement when I heard about AO and their programs. They helped us get our first desks, a mentor, community services, as well as legal and accounting firms who volunteered and helped get us set up. It would have cost thousands of dollars to hire any of their services and here they all were giving me amazing deals.”

Flowr

From its operations in Canada, Europe and Australia, Toronto- based Flowr produces fully licensed recreational and medicinal cannabis.  Its flagship campus in Kelowna comprises an 85,000 square foot licensed indoor growing facility, the FLOWR Forest, a 595,000 plus square foot outdoor growing operation, and the new Hawthorne R&D Facility, a state of the art 50,000 square foot cannabis R&D centre, largely funded by Scott’s Miracle-Gro & Hawthorne Gardening.

Founded in 2017, Flowr has more than doubled its staff in the last year, employing over 150 people locally. 30% of those are highly accomplished professionals (engineers, scientists, executives, industry experts) who relocated to Kelowna from across Canada and internationally. One of them is Aman Malhi, Director of People and Culture.

“I moved to Kelowna in November 2019 and have absolutely loved the Okanagan area since day one,” states Malhi. “The Okanagan climate is attractive to people and plants alike, with a huge tourist industry and a long growing season.

Flowr’s investment in the area offers the opportunity for long term careers and benefits the community through spending on local vendors, contractors and service providers. The company also provides opportunities for local university co-op students, investing in the leaders of the future to help take our business to the next level” says Malhi.

“The Okanagan climate is attractive to people and plants alike, with a huge tourist industry and a long growing season.”