Alberta farm catches lightning in a bottle (of water, that is)

By Trevor Bacque 25 June 2019 3 min read

When you think of a diversified farm operation, visions of grains and animals are common, but did you think about natural spring bottled water?

For the Clear Lake Hutterite Colony (CLHC), located just northeast of Claresholm, Alta., they already have poultry and swine, but the value-added addition of bottled water, dubbed Your Choice Bottled Water, is unique and in high demand.

A natural spring at the colony produces water at a pH of​ 8, still within the typical range of 6.5–8.5, but certainly on the higher end. The alkalinity is a unique selling point for buyers.


Established relationship paves way for collaboration

Once CLHC manager David Waldner realized they may have a good idea on their hand s, he contacted ATB Financial’s Foreign Exchange (FX) department in order to secure a loan in U.S. funds to purchase all the necessary equipment—a bottler, capper, labeler and shrink wrapper—from an outfit in Wisconsin.

However, even though the Colony is established, its water startup was not. A favourable foreign exchange rate was of critical importance for Waldner’s financial strategy in the short-, medium- and long-term, especially when making capital purchases on depreciating assets.

Waldner says he never hesitated to reach out to ATB because the institution understands the unique needs of agribusiness, including value-added propositions.

“I didn’t even worry about not getting a loan,” he says, adding that ATB supports Albertans and you cannot put a price on that.

“With FX, I won’t even consider being with anybody else but ATB.”


Real time analysis means real time results

His ATB contact, Head of Foreign Exchanges Sales Janek Guminski, worked with his team to assist Waldner and the rest of CLHC. Through ATB’s online FX platform, he is able to see in real time the financial markets and when would be the right time to finalize the Waldner’s rate.

After a meeting between ATB and Waldner, Guminski was able to leave a standing order a rate that was comfortable for the Colony manager. From that point, it was simply a waiting game and ATB’s FX team was able to deliver an excellent rate to Waldner.

“We did an analysis of the market and selected a level that was better than his budget and better than the current level at the time,” says Guminski. “I was able to suggest a level that turned out to be almost the very low for the year.”

The result was a fantastic rate for CLHC, ultimately affording the Colony a greater chance to succeed in their bottled water business venture.

“It was a bit aggressive, but still realistic. I felt the level was likely to get filled, rather than getting more aggressive and missing it altogether,” says Guminski.

Once the order was filled by Guminski, he alerted Waldner that he was able to push the trade out to a time that made sense for his operational timeline.

With the FX loan secured and equipment purchased, Waldner and others at CLHC went to work establishing their bottled water assembly line.

Today, with their production process smoothly operating, colony workers can produce 4 pallets per hour, which is 7,488 bottles of their signature natural spring water.

Waldner and fellow Colony workers now plan to switch their bottles over to a heavy-duty hemp-based plastic and will soon offer both 350- and 500-mL options for customers.

With an operation established and more than 100,000 bottles sold, Waldner is confident in achieving his new goal: selling one million bottles of water per year. All thanks to ATB.


ATB is here to help

Knowing you’re able to draw on ATB’s expertise could help you understand and act on opportunities when they become available. And that’s what ATB is all about, providing ways for Alberta businesses to evolve and thrive.​​​

If this is something you're looking for in your business, check out our other articles about business agriculture.

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