Food/Agribusiness

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As the hunt for PFAS contamination has expanded into crops and livestock, it has revealed new food safety concerns related to the limited state-led testing system and lax federal standards. 

Despite a historically cold spring, a year-over-year decline in acreage and new outbreaks of pests, some local growers of hops are reporting record-breaking harvests. 

Working under the hot summer sun, Ricardo Martinez and Yolanda Garrido concentrated on meeting their quota. They lost track of the hours, but bucket-by-bucket, seven days a week, they picked blueberries at a farm in Southwest Michigan. 

After operating its brewing facility in a 700-square-foot space since 2017, the owners of Arvon Brewing Co. in Grandville say they are ready to grow the business.

Brien Fox moved into the chairmanship at the Lansing-based Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association as the craft brewing industry in Michigan continues to gain in popularity. The CEO of the family-owned Henry A. Fox Sales Co. in Kentwood was elected to a two-year term as chairman on July 31 during the annual meeting of the association, which represents nearly 50 beer and wine distributors across Michigan that employ about 6,000 people. He spoke with MiBiz about his role and the state’s beer and wine industry.

GRAND RAPIDS — Founders Brewing Co. is selling a majority stake in the business to the brewery’s Spain-based minority shareholder, MiBiz has learned. 

The death count from frightful incidents involving enclosed grain elevators is on the rise — a stark reminder to West Michigan’s agricultural industry of the dangers of grain handling.

The company Confident Cannabis was launched less than four years ago by four Stanford Business School alums. Today, 50 percent of the legal cannabis produced in the U.S. across 25 states passes through the Palo Alto, Calif-based company’s lab-testing platform, which allows business-to-business buying and selling of cannabis.

SpartanNash Co.’s present chairman and former CEO, Dennis Eidson, returned to running the company today following the abrupt resignation of President and CEO David Staples amid an expected quarterly loss.

KENTWOOD — Roskam Baking Co. is planning an $85.2 million expansion of its operations in the Grand Rapids area. 

When Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana more than a decade ago, advocates hailed it as a landslide victory for patients. 

Officials in Muskegon and Holland say they’re responding to voters as they take disparate approaches to medical marijuana businesses.

new bill would end a time-consuming bonding process needed to get a license for Michigan-based craft beverage producers and certain out-of-state companies that sell alcoholic beverages in Michigan. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Tensions between Michigan craft beverage producers and the state regulatory agency appear to be ratcheting up with the filing of a new federal lawsuit, MiBiz has learned. 

Time has run out for about 10 percent of crops in the state, as Michigan farmers face delays related to one of the wettest spring seasons on record. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month reversed a policy from the Snyder administration that blocked commercial solar energy projects on property enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program.

LANSING — Michigan lawmakers are allocating $15 million to a low-interest loan program to help farmers wrestling with crop losses associated with historic rainfall this spring.

 The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is advising consumers not to eat any foods produced by Wyoming-based Charley’s Food Design Inc., also known as Charley’s Chips Company.

GRAND RAPIDS — In the restaurant business, nothing can mess up a night like the broiler breaking down just before the dinner hour on a busy weekend. Or the ice machine in the bar going down. Or the walk-in cooler or freezer failing. Or the kitchen ventilation system malfunctioning. Those are situations that Daniel Estrada and Joe Gallagher believe their startup company can help to fix and avoid.

According to Nielsen data supplied by the United States Association of Cider Makers, the cider beverage category continues to expand, with off-premise sales up 9.4 percent in the third quarter of 2018 versus the prior year. Customers also are buying local: Regional cider sales are growing four times as fast as national cider brands.

After producing mead commercially for the past year, Alto-based Grims Bee LLC plans to expand and open its first consumer-facing store and tasting room in nearby Middleville.

ALPINE TOWNSHIP — Dunneback Fruit Farm LLC aims to offer customers something new in addition to the fruits and vegetables grown at the multi-generational family farm. The business will use fruits, hops and other products from the farming operation to make beer, wine and cider and serve them in an on-site tasting room at 3025 6 Mile Road NW.

As more generations become exposed over time to the craft beer industry, brewers will face new opportunities to find growth and challenges to their existing business models. Add in a healthy dose of regulatory uncertainty and shifting market dynamics that could easily catch breweries off guard financially if they scaled up too large, too soon and it’s easy to see that the craft brewing industry remains in a state of constant flux.

In the hyper-competitive craft beer industry in which growth has started to level off in recent years, Old Nation Brewing Co. proves the exception to the rule. The Williamston-based brewery has garnered a name for itself with its M-43 brand, a popular New England-style hazy India Pale Ale that carries a suggested retail price of $13.99 per four-pack of 16-ounce cans.

Although Michigan has earned a spot among the nation’s top producers of hops after a growth spurt in the last five years, 2018 served as a moment of reckoning for the state’s growers, whose overall acreage declined. The state remains the fourth-largest cultivator of hops, although still lags well behind the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., where almost 96 percent of the nearly 58,000 acres of hops are grown in the country.

Michigan is “a natural fit” for industrial hemp production, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday as the state launched an industrial hemp pilot program for the 2019 planting season. The new program allows for the growth, cultivation and marketing of Michigan grown industrial hemp.

A Decatur couple has pleaded guilty in federal court to multi-million dollar fraud charges involving their operation of one of Southwest Michigan’s largest corporate farms.

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.