The Western Fair Association has announced a new strategy that includes becoming home to a hub for agriculture and agribusiness innovation called The Grove.
The Grove, to be housed in some of the buildings which once hosted the London Farm Show and the National Poultry Show, was launched Oct. 10 at an event at the Western Fair.
Why it matters: Southwestern Ontario, the major food producing region in the province, has not had access to some of the agri-business incubation options that are available elsewhere in North American.
The Western Fair is at a crossroads, with a need to find a use for some of its older buildings, and the fact that the revenue-generating casino on the property has announced a plan to move to the south end of London.
So, the Western Fair District, which was founded in 1867, is retrenching to what has made it successful – remaining connected to its roots in agriculture.
“We’re going to go as quickly as possible,” said Reg Ash, CEO of the Western Fair Association. He hopes to have the space filled in about two years.
The Grove, however, has its first tenant already, LiveFit, a rapidly growing company providing chef-cooking meals directly delivered to people’s homes.
Nick Spina, CEO of LiveFit, says the company will be using 30,000 square feet of space for its new headquarters and kitchens from which it could eventually serve 11 million meals across Canada and the U.S. within 24 hours.
The company currently serves Ontario but will expand across the country by the end of the year and into the U.S. in the next nine months. The company will hire 200 people in London.
For farmers who attended the London Farm Show or the National Poultry Show when they used the old buildings, LiveFit will be based in the Canada Building. The Progress Building has another 57,000 square feet available to turn into offices or food facilities or places of technology creation.
The association also aims to make The Grove a place where thought leaders gather and could include conferences and events.
The Middlesex London Food Policy Council has also committed to make its new hoe at The Grove.
It could also be a place to continue the connection between urban and rural that already happens there with the Western Fair, it’s agriculture events and farmers market.