The new Southern Pioneers Food Hub has received $518,250 from the Provincial Growth Fund, and the new initiative was officially opened on Friday 23rd April by the Minister of Economic and Regional Development.
The Hon Stuart Nash was invited to launch the food hub, which is situated above The Seriously Good Chocolate Company, and local dignitaries including Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt attended the ceremony.
Chocolate factory, shop and cafe owner Jane Stanton is the co-director of the Southern Pioneers Food Hub, along with Chris Fraser – of Miele Apiaries.
Stage one involved establishing a collaborative test kitchen to support Southland businesses, iwi and community groups to develop innovative food products.
The funding has enabled the entity to purchase machinery and equipment for the internal fit-out of the space, and three new roles will be established as a result, with a further 22 jobs expected to be created over stage two and three.
“I wanted to give back to Southland because Southland has been so fantastic to myself, my family and to the Seriously Good Chocolate company,” Jane told those invited to the launch.
It was an emotional moment for the entrepreneur, who acknowledged many of her board members – some of whom had been close friends for years, as well as her family.
“The dream is finally happening.”
The Southern Pioneers Food Hub will actively encourage businesses and start-ups to be innovative and forward thinking in food development. The space will include development space, offices, and meeting and planning rooms.
Hon Nash said the new food hub initiative is exactly what the Provincial Growth Fund, the regional development unit and economic development strategy is about.
“It epitomises everything that we want to achieve and it’s about engaging locals.”
He said it was about bringing people together, building communities and then making it happen.
And when Jane invited him South for the opening, Hon Nash said how could he turn down the invitation? – “I was plied with chocolates and gin.”
Set up as a separate entity to the Seriously Good Chocolate Company, Southern Pioneers Food Hub Ltd has its own governance board.
Jane said the food hub will be self-generating and have advisory and governance support from its board members (Blair Wolfgram, Ian Collier, Cecilia Tarrant, Murray Wilson and Keith Neylon).
The Seriously Good Chocolate Company will also provide input through its advisory board of Cecillia, Geoff Sprong and Colin McFetridge.
“The opportunities are endless and the board will balance where it will head,” she said.
Regarding her co-director Chris Fraser, she said having the next generation involved will keep the food hub safe and ensure it keeps growing.
Board member Ian Collier said it was great to see Jane’s vision come to life.
“This has been a long-term vision of hers – it’s all about Southland, it’s all about the food and the products that are produced, but also having that innovative slant and bringing it to life.”
He said the Southern Pioneers Food Hub will be a place where everyone is welcome.
Jane began making chocolate truffles using a recipe from her grandfather and went on to build her company exactly 21 years ago in 2000.
Governance and Advisory Board members
Cecilia Tarrant – Indépendent
Ian Collier – Chairman Great South
Murray Wilson – Southland Farm Machinery
Geoff Sprong – Chriscoes
Blair Wolfgram – Ocean Beach
Keith Neylon – Antara Diray