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First Nations Fruit Industry Development Workshop

By Forrest Scharf (PAg) Provincial Specialist, Fruit Crops

April 17, 2019, was an exciting day for the fruit sector. The University of Saskatchewan hosted a Sour cherry and Haskap information session mainly targeted to First Nation representatives, followed by a tour of the Agri-Food Innovation Centre.

Fruit sector representatives from the dwarf sour cherry and haskap industries also played an important role in discussing opportunities in the industry. The event was coordinated by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development (TED) and was supported by Ministry of Agriculture staff, Dr. Bob Bors, from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, as well as Dr. Martin Reaney, Strategic Research Program Chair in Lipid Quality and Utilization.

The day started off with Dr. Bors talking about the haskap research breeding program that he initiated at the University of Saskatchewan, which has become world famous among berry growers, and the dwarf sour cherry breeding program that resulted in the Romance Series of cherries as well as the Carmine Jewel variety.

Dr. Martin Reaney speaking to an audience
Dr. Martin Reaney talks about
potentially valuable extracts
from fruit processing
Dr. Reaney then provided a presentation regarding potential high-value products that could be made via processing pits and seeds of sour cherry as well as chokecherry. Normally pits and seeds are thought of as waste by-products resulting from value-added processing. Use of the kernels and seed would make processing of these fruits more efficient from a cost, and return-on-investment perspective. Samples of these processed products were shared with audience members, and were found to be highly appealing.

The President of the Canadian Cherry Producers Inc. (CCPI) and owner of Everyday Farms, Jocelyn Zurevinsky, then gave a presentation regarding the mandate and role of CCPI, as well as opportunities in the cherry industry. This was followed by a presentation by the representative of Haskap Saskatchewan, Curtis Braaten, president, Haskap Central Sales Ltd. Curtis talked about the role of Haskap Saskatchewan, as well as opportunities in the Haskap industry.

Dan Haggart presenting information about his company
Dan Haggart President/CEO of Cherrish
presenting information about his company
to First Nations representatives
The audience was treated to a fascinating talk by Dan Haggart, President/CEO of Cherrish, and George Martinez, CEO, Manna Nutritionals. The title of their talk was “Cherrish and the Need for Sour Cherries.” They highlighted various well researched aspects of their target consumers, their branding strategy and sophisticated ways that they are positioning themselves to gain broad consumer awareness. Their primary product is a 100 per cent cherry juice that has exceptionally high antioxidant capacity, is known to be anti-inflammatory and is an effective muscle recovery treatment. The company also markets a few other cherry juice mixes that include other natural fruit flavouring, like blueberry. The products are marketed in 355 ml containers specifically designed to meet the needs of some athletes, as well as in smaller 89 ml packets for long distance runners. The company also expressed interest in haskap as a future component of one of their flavoured products.
A 355 ml bottle of Cherrish drink
355 ml Cherry/Blueberry
mixed Cherrish drink
An 89 ml package of Cherrish To Go
89 ml Cherrish To Go package

The presentations painted a picture of optimism, the potential to partner with First Nations and the potential to expand the industry in Saskatchewan to significantly higher levels.  

For more detailed information about this event, please contact Forrest Scharf, provincial fruit specialist.

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