The Public Food Hub is embarking on a tour of the Prairies to connect regional food cultures and expand the reach of its platform.
From its inception, The Public was meant to be like Startup Edmonton but for food, said Ken Bautista, co-founder of both organizations. Having learned the importance of connecting communities in the tech world, Bautista wants The Public Roadshow to create opportunities for similar cross-city channels to be formed in the food startup world.
"I think one of the things is helping these local food brands not only connect within that local community and customer base but also with what's going on in other places," Bautista said.
Each of the Public Roadshow dates will take participants on a bus tour of the local food ecosystem, dropping in on farmers' markets, shared kitchen spaces, and culinary schools. During the tour, makers will have a chance to pitch their startup and show off their food at a tasting and meetup.
The tour kicks off in Edmonton on Oct. 19, coinciding with the city's Startup Week.
"One of my favourite startup weeks that I went to was in Minneapolis, where they had their tech startup week at the same time as their food startup week," Bautista explained. "I always thought it would be really interesting to bring food and tech together."
The Public was originally conceived as an incubator space for food businesses in the Capital Arts Building at 105 Avenue and 107 Street, for which it received $600,000 in funding from the city in 2019. When COVID disrupted construction, The Public concentrated on building a customer base for food makers through pop-ups and extensions into other communities. Bautista said construction will resume in the new year, with a plan to build 13 commercial kitchens, shared workspaces, and a retail area.
As a platform supported by foodies hungry for new tastes, the logical next step was to add unique products from other cities, thus extending the reach of 400 or so food brands to regional markets. Bautista hopes to see more of these bidirectional exchanges happen as a result of the roadshows.
"The idea is to bring these different partners and players together to show what's going on in terms of these local food ecosystems," Bautista said.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of The Public's building and reflect that it intends to continue with the original project in addition to outreach efforts like the roadshow.