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From Farm to Fork

FIRSt researchers help a local agricultural business tap into the growing healthy food market.

Everspring Farms is a diversified, niche-oriented, family-owned agricultural and food business. Co-founders Dale and Marianne Donaldson first started the operation as a hobby with a flock of geese in 1985. Today Everspring Farms, located in Ilderton and Seaforth, Ontario, Canada, produces unique, organic foods that serve the restaurant and gourmet food trade and the emerging functional food sector to create a sustainable environment through their products.

Their business has evolved over the years as the Donaldsons built a provincially inspected poultry processing plant, where they now process 200,000 geese and ducks annually for Southwestern Ontario markets. Early on, the Donaldsons had begun growing hydroponic barley grass to provide fresh grass for their birds all year round, which led them to learn about the nutritional transformation that takes place when a seed is sprouted. They began sprouting a variety of different grains and seeds for the bakery and retail food industries. As consumer interest in health and wellness continues to grow, Everspring hopes to develop a line of healthy, tasty and innovative baking mixes that incorporates sprouted wheat grains.

Learn more about the project below.

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Project Essentials

  • Principal Investigator: Robert McCurdy, Brenda Torrens, Candace Rambert
  • Years Active: 2014
  • Students: Zoe Smith, Caitlin Bruce, Mindy Lee
  • Research Area: Food & Beverage
  • Funders: NSERC

The Challenge

Everspring Farm approached FIRSt to help further commercialize their line of consumer-friendly, healthy, tasty and innovative baking mixes using sprouted seeds to sell as retail packaged products. Each blend had to hit a high bar that included being a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, protein content, carbohydrate content and GMO-free.

The FIRSt team was comprised of principal investigators Rob McCurdy, FIRSt’s resident Food Scientist, and Brenda Torrens, a Red Sealed Pastry Chef and George Brown graduate and current teacher. The student researcher team, made up of Zoe Smith, Caitlin Bruce, Mindy Lee, was recruited from the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Through their work on the project, students learned firsthand about the product development process.

The GBC Solution

With their project goal in mind, the FIRSt team set out to begin the prototyping phase of this project: to develop 12 recipe concepts with sprouted grains and/or other Everspring manufactured sprouted products. Out of these, FIRSt optimized the top 8 recipes for flavour profile and ease of production assembly. Under the close guidance of Everspring, FIRSt modified each formulation to meet the packaging needs and scale requirements for the finalized packaged product.

All the recipes developed weren’t just tested for their taste—each formulation met stringent nutritional requirements and provided superior flavour profiles. After a round of sensory testing to gather feedback on flavour, ease of preparation and purchase intent, Everspring received the final eight concepts. Preparing the dry mixes was kept simple, even for the novice home baker.

The Result

Everspring was very happy with the results, the range of which incorporated blends of 6 sprouted grains and seeds like sprouted chia seeds, corn flour and black bean flour and covered a wide range of baked goods including Sprouted Banana Bread, Sprouted Black Bean Brownies, Sprouted Oatmeal Cookie and Sprouted Pumpkin Muffin. Everspring Farms is in a good place to grow their company, with plans for new product development and company diversification on the horizon.