Klonetics

Klonetics

Here in the Central Okanagan, industry-leading companies can be found in a multitude of sectors, including the booming cannabis industry. Having received its Nursery Cultivation licence from Health Canada in 2021, Kelowna-based Klonetics is one of those companies, offering an extensive selection of proprietary cannabis strains that medical growers and licensed producers can use to increase revenues.

“Klonetics has a portfolio of in-demand cannabis strains and will provide licensed producers and growers with plantlets or Ready to Flower™ plants, resulting in increased crop yields and higher quality genetics,” says the company’s CEO, David Brough. “We will be the premier cannabis cloning company that is cultivating in Canada.”

Once they reach full capacity in 2022, Klonetics will employ 50 people and produce nearly four million Ready to Flower™ plants out of its almost 25,000 square foot Kelowna facility, where each room is sealed and ventilated to the highest Goods Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.

The Klonetics team is made up of world-class specialists who have access to the best technology in the field.

“We did consider multiple locations throughout Canada; after comprehensive due diligence, Kelowna provided us with the best opportunity to thrive,” says Brough. “We continue to attract the industry’s top scientific talent from all parts of Canada.”

Thanks to its partnerships with some of the most reputable breeders across the globe, Klonetics now offers the largest breeder-certified cannabis strain catalogue in the world to licensed Canadian producers.

Klonetics also partners with VEXSL, a transport company specializing in climate sensitive, high-risk and high-value controlled goods, to ensure its
products arrive intact.

Being recognized as a disruptor in the industry is how Klonetics defines success. The company’s existing accomplishments, coupled with the fact that they’re sourcing additional space to expand, leaves no question that they are already on their desired trajectory.

“There is a massive scientific component to cannabis that the Okanagan region is leading. Klonetics is leading the way on how cannabis is studied and developed for cultivation to produce the finest and cleanest medical and recreational products in the market.”

Jealous
Fruits

When it comes to farming, it’s all about timing. That’s what makes Okanagan-based Jealous Fruits the envy of cherry farms throughout the world.

The company capitalizes on the higher altitude of its orchards and Okanagan Lake’s moderating effect on temperature to extend cherry harvest into mid-September, so they can export product long after others have completed their seasons.

“There’s a big gap between Northern Hemisphere production and when the Southern Hemisphere production starts out of Chile and Argentina, as they don’t start until November,” says Jealous Fruits’ Sales Manager, Julie McLachlan.

“If we can pick fruit in early September, store it or put it on a boat to China, it’ll be sold in mid-October, when there will be literally nothing available in the world except us.”

Launched as a fruit stand in the early 1900s, Jealous Fruits is owned by the Geen family, with David Geen serving as the company’s CEO, running the operation with his two sons, Eric and Alex. The company is now the only vertically-integrated cherry grower in Canada, meaning they have the capacity to grow, process, and package their crops in-house—controlling the process from blossom to box, as McLachlan notes. “When you buy from us, you know you’re getting our fruit,” she says.

In the 1990s, David Geen saw an opening in the global market for cherries. With their years of experience and David’s reputation as one of the top cherry growers in the world, they went all-in. That was when their international business took off.

“There’s no place like the Okanagan. There’s a great sense of community, a lot of growth happening in the Valley. There’s quite a future for us.”

Growing cherries can be a risky investment, though. McLachlan notes that “cherries are a high-value crop because of its finicky relationship to heat and rain.”

Moreover, to compete as an international agricultural exporter, farms have to produce a significant volume. To meet international demand, Jealous Fruits has invested heavily in its infrastructure. In fact, the company opened its new, state-of-the-art 140,000 square foot facility in 2020.

The facility offers highly precise weight accuracy thanks to automatic box fillers. The latest technology, including the first UNITEC automatic palletizers in North America and optical sorting equipment, means gentler handling and quick identification of damaged product.

At its busiest, Jealous Fruits employs up to 1,200 staff, with more than 1,000 pickers throughout their 1,100 acres of cherry trees.

In 2021, the company produced its largest crop to date: nearly 7,000 tonnes, a 250% increase from the previous year. McLachlan says they are processing about 18 tons an hour.

In addition to mainland China, the farm has a sustained presence throughout Asia, including Taiwan and Japan. Jealous Fruits also exports to Europe and in 2022, they hope to enter the Korean market.

Geen says it’s extremely gratifying to see all of their hard work bearing fruit. “I take personal satisfaction in the jobs created and seeing our products shipped to markets around the world.”

“We’re very proud of the reputation that we have in the Central Okanagan and worldwide,” adds McLachlan. “It’s a testament to what David and his wife Laura have been putting into the company since the 1990s. It’s been a long time coming.”

Farming Karma Fruit Co.

As successful tree-fruit farmers, Karma and Kuku Gill worked and raised their kids on their Okanagan apple orchard—30 years later, the kids are all grown up and working alongside their parents to operate Farming Karma Fruit Co., the agritourism business the Gills launched in 2019. The transition from well-respected orchardists to successful producers of value-added fruit products and tourism experiences was supported by the community.

“Whether it was learning about manufacturing practices and equipment or retail sales and distribution, our community was able to assist us in different ways,” says Karma and Kuku’s son, Avi Gill, who is also the company’s president. It was a desire “to give back to the community,” he adds, as well as “the hope of sparking the interest of the next generation of agricultural pioneers,” that inspired Karma and Kuku to launch their family-owned and operated business.

Avi’s wife, Binny, and younger brother, Sumeet, are also involved in the business, using their unique combination of skills to make the company a success.

At the Gills’ Kelowna property, you’ll find Farming Karma’s production facility, where their line of fruit sodas, which are free of added concentrates, preservatives, and sugars, are made. 

Reflecting back on community partnerships, it was Peter Boyd of Independent Grocer who gave the Gills their first retail opportunity. After just three years in business, and thanks to some initial guidance from Boyd, Farming Karma Sodas can now be found in more than 3,000 stores across BC and Ontario, as well as select stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.

Avi says being situated in the Okanagan and having the ability to build off the consumer desire for the region’s fruit has helped Farming Karma establish a solid reputation. The local community is also to thank.

“When you’re looking to collaborate [in the Okanagan], there is always someone who is willing to help make a positive impact on your business.” That’s good karma, indeed.

“The support from the community is immense and there is no other place you would want to start. It’s accessible and easy to create a buzz in this community—consumers here are progressive and always looking to support local businesses.”

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.”

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.”

SunRype

President and CEO, Lesli Bradley, says the company’s vision is to help people live healthier lives. “We make really great things out of fruit and other simple ingredients, and our mission goes beyond product development to also include supporting community initiatives that help to promote a healthy active lifestyle for families throughout the Okanagan and all across Canada.”

SunRype has over 300 employees who work at the production facility in Kelowna, spanning 19 acres near scenic Lake Okanagan. “People are very important to us”, states Bradley. “We are proud of our culture and that over 45% of our plant operation employees have been with us for over 20 years. In fact, this year throughout various departments, we are celebrating 26 employees with anniversaries ranging between 20 and 35 years, 3 employees at 40 years and most notably an additional 5 people celebrating their 45th work anniversary at SunRype!”

“Ultimately, success is measured by sales,” she adds. “Brand trust and brand equity are key. We’ve added many different fruits to our juice line-up, a whole range of popular fruit snacks and new categories that go beyond fruit. SunRype goodness is now shared with families all across Canada, and we’re also proud to offer a growing array of products across the U.S.”

“The Okanagan Valley is a pretty special place. Abundant sunshine makes it the perfect place to grow fruit, which is important in our business. We’re surrounded by so much natural beauty that really makes it a wonderful place to live, work and play. If you’ve never been here, come visit and see why we’re so lucky to call this place home.”