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Homegrown: Hemp seed producer reaches global markets from Ottawa Valley base

Every year, Valley Bio produces enough seeds to plant a 15-foot wide strip of crops all the way around the equator

Part of the Valley Bio team poses in front of the company's sign
Part of the Valley Bio team poses in front of the company's sign

Even in a region known for its modern agri-food industry, Valley Bio is making a name for itself with its global reach and innovative business practices.

The firm is a registered seed establishment based in Cobden, roughly an hour outside of Ottawa in the heart of the Ottawa Valley. The company grows crops, evaluating their genetics and then selling seeds to other farms all over the world. Valley Bio’s crops include soybeans, buckwheat, rye, oats, barley, peas and industrial hemp.

Since its launch in 2014, Valley Bio has sold enough seeds to plant 60 feet of crops all the way around the equator.

“That’s a pretty narrow strip, but it’s a long way around,” jokes Valley Bio President Reuben Stone, who operates the business with his wife, Keanan.

Super crop

Industrial hemp has turned out to be one of the firm’s most lucrative crops, with cultivars originally bred in Southern Ontario now being sold to clientele all over the world, including parts of the U.S., Australia, New
Zealand, South Asia and Europe. 

Hemp has been dubbed a “super crop” by many, and can be used in an ever-growing number of applications. Industrial hemp, which is the type grown by Valley Bio, is most commonly used for both food and bio-materials.

As a seed producer, Valley Bio’s location in the County of Renfrew gives it some unique advantages. Much of the export of seeds from Canada is done by sea. And yet, much of the country’s industrial hemp
seeds are produced in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, far from any ports.

In contrast, the Ottawa Valley is a relatively short drive from the Port of Montreal.

The right environment

Valley Bio is a relatively young company in a market of well established, long-standing seed producers in the Prairie Provinces, Reuben says. Being based in Renfrew County has enabled the firm to grow by filling a relatively void space for industrial hemp seed in eastern Canada.

Though he was born and raised in Renfrew County, Reuben says it wasn’t a desire to stay close to home that led him to start his firm in the Ottawa Valley. Instead, there was a strong business case to locate in Renfrew County.

Nevertheless, the location does have other advantages.

“We love the community,” says Keanan. “It’s people that you know, people that you trust.”

The Stones are happy to be able to give back to the region they grew up in and create opportunities for other local families and generations to come.

“We really hold it close to our hearts because this is a fantastic place to grow up, to live, work and raise a family,” says Keanan.