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MOBILE & TELECOMMUNICATIONS | Mobile Commerce / Marketplace
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Founded Year

2018

Stage

Acq - Fin | Alive

About Boon

Boon is a marketplace technology platform that started as a healthcare staffing marketplace. It connects licensed professionals with opportunities to provide care for others by practicing good.

Boon Headquarter Location

Durham, North Carolina,

United States

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Lack of slaughter capacity causes some B.C. farmers to quit, others to scale back

Jan 30, 2021

steak may be a little more difficult. “We’re in the heart of cowboy country, but it’s surprisingly hard to find locally finished beef out here,” said Julia Smith, owner of Blue Sky Ranch . One of the main reasons isn’t connected to supply or demand, she said, but rather to what happens between field and fork. A lack of slaughter capacity in B.C. means small-scale producers who sell directly to consumers are struggling to meet the “exploding demand” for their beef, pork and poultry, which has grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I obviously can’t sell that pig or cow out in the field to a customer,” said Smith, who farms 8½ hectares (21 acres) outside Merritt. “The market is for the finished product.” Advertisement Article content continued In the case of beef, most large- to medium-sized ranchers choose to ship their cows out of province to be grain-finished at a feedlot and slaughtered at a plant in Alberta or the United States. Meanwhile, small-scale producers, who sell directly to consumers, are eager to meet the demand for grass-finished B.C. beef, but can’t secure reliable access to local abattoirs. Faced with uncertainty about where and when they’re able to get their livestock slaughtered, some farmers, like Smith, are scaling back, while others have decided to call it a day. ‘Paying to feed my community’ In October, Kendall Ballantine, owner of Central Park Farms, decided to close her business. “The main driving factor behind that decision is just how difficult it has become to have secure abattoir and butchery access in British Columbia,” she wrote in an open letter to the Ministry of Agriculture the following month. Ballantine, who was named the Langley Chamber of Commerce’s “Under 40 Business Person of the Year” in 2018, said she is a “first-generation 34-year-old female Indigenous farmer and farm owner” who has produced over 100,000 pounds of meat for her community on land in Langley and Rock Creek. To get her animals slaughtered, she sometimes had to drive a 16-hour round trip to deliver her steers to an abattoir, followed the next day with a 13-hour round trip for her hogs, she said. “There is no excuse for putting farmers in a position of having to leave their ranch at lunchtime and not get back until close to 4 a.m.” Advertisement Article content continued Ballantine, who did not respond to an interview request, said she booked slaughter appointments before her animals were born to ensure she could get a time. Even so, she sometimes had to overwinter animals that couldn’t be processed, resulting in increased feeding expenses. “I don’t even want to get into the cost of that,” she said. “I am literally going to be paying to feed my community because British Columbia doesn’t have the supports in place to get secure processing for its farmers.” Julia Smith. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG Files Smith said she’s afraid other farmers will follow Ballantine if the situation doesn’t improve. She now raises 12 hogs every three months, rather than 12 a month, which was her intention when she moved from Burnaby to Merritt in search of affordable farmland five years ago. “We have no path to growth,” she said. “We bought this place based on a business plan, and we’re only doing a third of what we need to do.” Slaughter system faces challenges In Abbotsford, Mark Robbins and his daughter Jill Azanza have also been forced to scale back their poultry farm because local processors won’t kill and cut their pasture-raised turkeys, which are larger than average. In the case of K & M Farms, there are several poultry processing plants nearby with capacity to handle more birds, but the plants are unwilling or unable to do custom orders. “It’s too much hassle for them,” said Robbins. As a result, the farm went from raising about 1,500 turkeys in 2016 to none in 2020. This year, they plan to raise about 500, but they’ll have to ensure they weigh less and will have to pay for more processing compared to a large turkey operation. Advertisement Article content continued “At the end of the day, it eliminates choice for the consumer,” said Azanza. She wants the government to make it financially feasible for processors to set aside certain days to handle custom orders from farmers who sell directly to consumers. “If it’s provincial government policy to have more small direct-market producers in B.C., then they may have to provide some support on the processing side,” she said. Azanza isn’t the only one asking the province to intervene to solve the problem. The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association recently asked the Ministry of Agriculture to increase slaughter capacity in B.C. by allowing unlicensed on-farm slaughter of animals that will be sold whole and directly to a single consumer. They believe exempting farm-gate sales from provincial licensing should be done in tandem with improvements to the system to make processors more responsive to the needs of farmers who require custom slaughter and cutting. But making changes to one part of B.C.’s complicated slaughter system could have negative implications for others, particularly provincially licensed Class A and B abattoirs where every animal must be inspected before and after processing, a requirement in B.C. since the outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003. B.C. already allows some on-farm slaughter in specific regional districts across the province. Producers who live more than an hour away from a licensed abattoir can apply for a Class D or E licence, which allows them to kill and sell a limited number of animals directly to local consumers. Advertisement Article content continued Allowing small farms to slaughter animals without an inspector present is both unfair and potentially dangerous, said Nova Woodbury, executive director of the B.C. Association of Abattoirs. All 58 of B.C.’s Class A and B abattoirs are considered small when compared to the large processing facilities where most of Canada’s livestock are slaughtered. “I call them craft abattoirs,” said Woodbury. “Cargill (a meat processing plant in Alberta) does the same amount of animals in 10 days as all of B.C.’s abattoirs do in one year.” Nonetheless, starting a Class A or B abattoir in B.C. is a large investment, requiring infrastructure, equipment and staff as well as a provincial meat inspector to be present any time an animal is killed. Allowing small-scale producers to slaughter animals on their own property creates an uneven playing field for those who have made significant investments in the industry, while also reducing the oversight needed to ensure food safety, she said. Mike Noullet is aware of the problems small-scale producers face trying to get their animals slaughtered. The owner of an abattoir near Prince George, he’s had to turn away some due to a lack of capacity caused by a shortage of skilled workers. “I’ve had an ad for help for more than a year,” he said. Because the work is seasonal — busy in the fall and quiet in the spring — it can be hard to attract and keep employees. As a result, abattoirs may not run all year or may only offer slaughtering a few days a week, limiting options and opportunities for producers. Advertisement Article content continued Noullet wants the government to allow foreign workers to fill vacant jobs and is against expanding Class D and E licences to let farmers do more on-farm slaughter. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a licence to operate illegally,” he said. Kevin Boon, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association. Food safety paramount The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association is also against any moves that would reduce oversight and food safety, said general manager Kevin Boon. “If something goes wrong, the entire industry will wear it,” he said. “It could shut us all down.” While Boon didn’t disagree B.C.’s slaughter system has challenges, he said that “whatever is done has to ensure safety first.” To meet the growing demand for B.C. beef, the association recently created a new company called B.C. Beef Producers. They’ve secured a lease on a federally licensed plant in Westwold, between Kamloops and Vernon, with plans to begin processing some B.C. beef cows into ground beef rather than sending them out of province. “When COVID hit in the spring, we saw it impact food supply chains with outbreaks in the large processing plants” outside B.C., said Boon. Local processing will increase food security, while providing better returns for B.C. beef producers and a better supply of B.C. beef for consumers looking for local meat, he said. “It’s British Columbians feeding British Columbians at its finest,” said Boon. Recognizing the need for a better regulatory framework to help modernize the B.C. slaughter system, the provincial government has conducted several rounds of consultation  since 2016. Advertisement

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Digital Health

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Technologies, platforms, and systems that engage consumers for lifestyle, wellness, or health-related purposes; capture, store, or transmit health data; and/or support life science and clinical operations. (DiME, DTA, HealthXL, & NODE.Health)

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