New agriculture centre in Bible Hill would help boost local economy
BIBLE HILL - The future of agriculture and rural Nova Scotia may be taking shape off the beaten path in Bible Hill.
In a few offices on the AgriTECH Park facility scientists are coming up with ways to add value to resources currently discarded by many. They are also looking to attract companies from Europe, which are working on similar projects, to set up a North American office in Colchester County.
"There's three or four companies that are very interested in coming into the Truro area but there's nowhere to put them. You need the infrastructure," said Dr. Richard Ablett, chief executive officer of the Atlantic BioVenture Centre.
The plan would see the Atlantic Agri-Innovation Centre created at the Bible Hill park, located off of Pictou Road. The 20,000-square-foot facility would cost about $10 million and would be a driving force to the local economy moving forward.
"It's kind of a breeding ground for new product development, that's the exciting part," said Jo Ann Fewer, Colchester Regional Development Agency's executive director. "We're still trying to spread the word and tell (people) what we're planning."
Ablett sees this as the next phase in the transformation of the agriculture sector.
"The agriculture economy has to change, it isn't working in the traditional agriculture base," he said, noting there are declines in all the industry's sectors.
It would mean diversification and adding value to existing products.
For example, an Annapolis Valley company makes 130,000 apple pies a week and composts the peelings. Ablett said there is valuable anti-oxidant material in the peel that could be extracted.
"We want to retrieve and turn it into a salable product," he said.
With 11 universities in Nova Scotia there is a lot of research infrastructure that can be utilized across the province. "We have a lot of public research capacity and not enough private-sector entrepreneurs."
Having one centre looking for the latest technologies and creating its own new products would help build the economy. It would also provide a venue to connect the research and development officials with investors to make projects a reality.
Employees at the Atlantic BioVenture Centre, working with an engineering company, have already created portable 40-foot steel containers with food-grade processing equipment inside that could be set up across Nova Scotia.
"In rural communities, if we could build micro-factories that process products at the point of production of the raw material, and where the local labour is based, this would be an ability to upgrade a rural type environment," Ablett said.
The Atlantic Agri-Innovation Centre is exciting to many in the know, but government funding needs to be secured. While no official announcements have been made, it appears government officials, at both the provincial and federal levels, are interested.
"From all indications they are very supportive of the project, we just have to work out the details on how to make it happen," Fewer said.
Time is also an issue, as the federal stimulus funds, where it is expected the federal money would come from for the project, have to be spent by March 2011.
If the project dies, Ablett is concerned about the future of the region's agriculture sector and economy. "We have to innervate forward because developing countries are just coming in and undercutting us and they're going to continue," he said.