Food/Agribusiness

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Founders Brewing Co. has partnered with its Spanish investors to acquire a majority stake in a Colorado-based craft brewer.

Battle Creek-based Kellogg Co. is selling off Keebler, Famous Amos and other snack brands in a move to reshape it product portfolio.

Graci Harkema wants to break the craft beer industry’s bearded white male stereotype. In January, she became diversity and inclusion director at Founders Brewing Co., where she’s working to give employees opportunities to “be their authentic selves and achieve their goals.” Her hire followed a pair of controversies at Founders.

Succession planning can be an emotionally-charged family affair for businesses in any industry. That’s especially true for all sizes of family-owned farms, which make up more than 97 percent of the industry nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

When Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. put out the “bat signal” seeking help to support victims of last year’s catastrophic Camp Fire in northern California, the Michigan craft brewing industry set into motion. Their rallying point: Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. Sierra Nevada created the beer as a fundraiser, pledging to donate 100 percent of its profits from the sale of the product to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. The 10th-largest U.S. brewery then shared the recipe online and encouraged breweries all over the country to participate.

The founding couple whose initials gave ELK Brewing LLC its name are no longer with the company.

LITCHFIELD — Proposed commercial-scale maltster Independent Barley & Malt Inc. has signed an exclusive supplier agreement with Maumee, Ohio-based The Andersons Inc. Under the terms of the agreement, Litchfield-based Independent Barley & Malt will use The Andersons (Nasdaq: ANDE) to source, supply, deliver and store the malting barley it will use in its operations.

GRAND RAPIDS — A federal judge has ordered the financially-embattled Boersen Farms Inc., related entity Boersen Farms AG LLC, and its owners to pay nearly $14.9 million to Tennessee-based Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC for unpaid debts.

A federal agency has charged Michigan’s largest egg producer with harassing a line worker and then retaliating against her for reporting the behavior.

Discussions about global warming often concern what could happen in the future, but West Michigan fruit growers are adapting to changes in the climate that have already been happening for decades. Jeff VanderWerff, a fourth-generation grower at Sparta-based VanderWerff Farms LLC, said he and his brother, Joe VanderWerff, spend more time than they care to admit watching changing climate patterns.

Saugatuck Brewing Co. plans to acquire Kalamazoo-based Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing, pending various regulatory approvals.

Pabst Brewing Co. appears to be jumping into the spirits product category with the help of a West Michigan brewery and distillery.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS — The partners behind Wonderland Distilling Co. want to position their spirits as a connection to the outdoors culture in West Michigan and a link to the water that surrounds it. The startup distillery has already signed a lease and has started construction on production space in Muskegon Heights and expects to submit its federal licensing paperwork in the coming weeks, said Allen Serio, Wonderland’s chief marketing and sales officer.

Two West Michigan craft brewers operating with vastly differing business models are taking a similar approach to growing their operations by using capacity at other breweries. Both Sawyer-based Greenbush Brewing Co. and Muskegon-based Rake Beer Project LLC are taking advantage of a production model that allows them to get beer into the market without a significant upfront capital investment.

A West Michigan brewpub in planning has agreed to change its name as part of a settlement in a trademark infringement case brought by Railtown Brewing Co. last August.

SPARTA — Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., the largest supplier of Michigan apples, has acquired the sales operation of Sparta-based Jack Brown Produce Inc.

Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill provides much-needed certainty and support — and not just for Michigan farmers. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the Farm Bill, is a multi-faceted piece of legislation that affects Michigan’s farmers and farm workers, equipment manufacturers, food processing businesses, retailers, and many other people across the state.

The acquisition of an animal genomics laboratory in Alberta will position Neogen Corp. to more rapidly grow its business in Canada.

In 2019, City Built Brewing Co. hopes to add a rooftop bar and a street parklet so it can offer outdoor seating during the warmer months at its location in Grand Rapids’ Monroe North neighborhood, according to co-founder Edwin Collazo. “We’re right on the river. We’re going to take advantage of those things that bring people to this area anyways.” 

After completing the acquisition of Legacy Seeds Inc. in August 2018, Tillerman Seeds LLC aims to continue executing on its growth strategy and supporting its portfolio of seed companies. President Jim Sheppard said the goal is to find the right fit when acquiring new companies. 

Strata Business Services LLC is a “specialized small business solutions company” that focuses on investments in the medical marijuana sector in Michigan and other states. As of Dec. 6, adult-use recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan after voters approved Proposal 1 during the midterm election. 

A federal court ordered a West Michigan-based food manufacturer of ready-to-eat foods, including prepared salads, dips, and sauces, to discontinue selling food products until the company complies with federal regulations and other requirements.

slate of lame duck legislation has the potential to stifle growth for Michigan’s $2 billion craft beer industry. 

series of bipartisan bills fast-tracked for the state Legislature’s lame-duck session would redefine the laws governing how Michigan-based alcoholic beverage producers operate. 

GRAND RAPIDS — SpartanNash Co. plans to acquire Martin’s Super Markets Inc., a family-owned grocery chain based in South Bend, Ind.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP — A maker of sugar-free candies will invest $2.3 million to expand its operations north of Grand Rapids.

CALEDONIA — As consumers’ interests shift to a more locally-focused food supply chain, companies like Revolution Farms LLC hope to change how that food is grown. 

The Michigan Milk Producers Association plans to invest $24 million to expand its existing dairy plant operations in St. Joseph County.

Despite construction being “slightly behind” schedule, Zeeland Farm Services Inc. expects full operation of its new Ithaca soybean processing facility to come online in September 2019, according to President Cliff Meeuwsen.

By implementing auto-steer technology on tillage equipment, Jeff VanderWerff has increased efficiency by roughly 15 percent on his 2,000-acre Kent County farm.

As discussions over international trade policies have ramped up in recent months, West Michigan farmers say more needs to be done to ensure the U.S. has a “level playing field” with other countries.

Not even depressed commodity prices, stalled trade talks, labor constraints and climate change can stanch farmers’ optimism.

SARANAC — Inking a deal with a Chinese firm will allow a West Michigan machine control software developer to reach a broader market, as well as possibly move beyond some legal troubles that have plagued it over the last decade.

HOLLAND — A farmworker shortage and low commodity prices are forcing West Michigan blueberries farmers to alter how they approach their harvests.

The U.S. House and Senate each passed their own very different version of the 2018 farm bill, setting up a sprint to a Sept. 30 deadline, when the current legislation expires. If they fail to come to a compromise and pass a bill that President Trump will sign, farmers could face disruptions in many crucial federal programs covered by the farm bill, including crop insurance programs and agricultural research, as well as food assistance for low-income citizens. 

KALAMAZOO — The $12 million in new capital Vestaron Corp. seeks to raise would enable the company to complete a journey to bring to market a new environmentally friendly pesticide. 

Vander Heide, the current president of the Michigan Cider Association, said the cider industry fought hard to be included specifically in the new law’s language outlining the council’s governing board.

An update to Michigan law is bringing a more equitable approach to how license fees from craft beverage producers are spent. 

Paul Pyle is no stranger to the turmoil facing Michigan dairy farmers.

So far in 2018, his Zeeland-based Pyle Dairy Farm Inc. is experiencing its worst year on record. With little funds available to replace dilapidated equipment, Pyle’s often left “duct-taping stuff together” to keep his farm operations afloat.

An often overlooked component of the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan would create a commercial market for pot’s more utilitarian relative: hemp.

On the label of a recently released pale ale, New Belgium Brewing Co. proclaims “Hops and hemp reign — together at last.” 

With an oversupply of many hop varieties in the marketplace, growers might look to curb their growth until demand increases

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As a third-generation farmer at Hamilton-based Koeman Farms, Steve Koeman is monitoring how possible tariffs could affect the economics of his family business.

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