April 23rd, 2018

Business Beat: Hop to it and reap the rewards

By Medicine Hat News on April 11, 2018.

With spring around the corner, opportunities to serve Alberta’s fast-growing brewery industry are ready to sprout. Literally.

It’s no secret that Alberta’s brewery industry is booming, with over 65 microbreweries operating in the province as of October 2017. What’s more, the number of breweries increases every time a new report surfaces. And while entrepreneurs rush to meet the demand of thirsty Albertans, spring is the time to look at other business opportunities within this fast-growing sector.

One of the most lucrative and under-served opportunities exists in growing hops, with current provincial demand at approximately 100,000 pounds per year and rising with every new brewery that taps its first keg.

One acre of land can produce between 800 and 1,900 pounds of hops, meaning that less than a quarter section of land can meet Alberta’s current demand. At about US$6 per pound, that is certainly a high-value crop. With few local hops suppliers to draw from, brewers are forced to source from beyond provincial borders, and even into the United States.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Southeast Alberta’s semi-arid climate is perfect for growing hops. The plants are drought-resistant and the more sun, the merrier.

A Medicine Hat hops yard would have two established breweries in its back yard, with a third scheduled to open this year. And the city’s location at the junction of the Trans-Canada and Crowsnest highways provides overnight access to nearly the entire province.

In an industry that takes pride in supporting local, where ingredients come from matters. Alberta beer that relies on Alberta-grown hops will be well-received by thirsty patrons, adding value to a fast-growing industry and ensuring more business stays within the province.

With spring in the air, Medicine Hat-area growers have an opportunity to grow a lucrative new crop for an underserved market. All the conditions are already there for success. The first ones in will reap the biggest rewards.

Ryan Jackson is the general manager for Invest Medicine Hat, is the city’s economic and business development initiative whose role is to uncover and promote business opportunities in Canada’s sunniest city. For more information on investment opportunities, visit http://www.investmedicinehat.ca

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