BIBLE HILL - Experimental farming efforts in Nova Scotia took a step forward today with the opening of the new Perennia Innovation Centre in the former AgriTECH Park.
© Harry Sullivan - Truro Daily News
Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong listens as Margot White, a research technician with the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture, talks about a cheese project the university is working on in the Perennia Innovation Centre in Bible Hill. The centre celebrated its official opening on Friday.
The $9.2 million facility is intended to provide a facility for Nova Scotia entrepreneurs to help them develop and launch bio-resource products in the marketplace, build their businesses and create jobs.
"These companies recognize the bounty of our land and our sea and the potential to create new products or new technologies," said Rosalind Penfound, the province's deputy minister of agriculture and chairwoman of the Perennia board of directors, during grand opening ceremonies held at the site Friday morning.
"And we recognize the potential of these companies to help our agriculture and other industries to be profitable and sustainable, which is good for all Nova Scotians," she said.
Beth Densmore, president of the the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, which is based in Truro, described the facility as being "a good step forward for agriculture" in that the innovation centre will be available to test new ventures and products to help reduce the burden of setup and lab expenses for agricultural entrepreneurs.
"I've seen both the challenges and the opportunities that are out there for farm families," said Densmore, of farmers who are attempting to develop value-added products from their operations.
"Many times however, great ideas and product development are halted by expensive start up costs, particularly in research and development. Having the innovative centre available to test new ventures and products will be good for our agricultural entrepreneurs," she said.
The facility is designed as a business incubator to help companies that work with plant, animal or marine-based resources to create new products. It is housed in a 25,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly building in Perennia Innovation Park and leases space that can be custom designed to meet clients' needs, as well as labs and other spaces that can be used on a fee-for-service basis.
The centre was built with $5.9 million in provincial funding and $3.3 million in federal funding, including money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the federal-provincial AgriFlexibility agreement.
A variety of initiatives are currently underway at the site, including the development of such products as a hot pepper fish sauce (popular in west Africa), blush natural fruit drinks made from strawberry/rhubarb and grapefruit/rhubarb combinations, paints that use extracts from weeds for colouration, cheese and seaweed products and genetic work aimed at improving breeding rates in cattle, to name a few.
"They'll put their heads together, they'll chew on those ideas and they will say 'I wonder if we can do this or that,'" Agriculture Minister John MacDonell said, during the event, of Perennia's clients.
"Together, they will take their ideas and sketch out the possibilities. They will innovate, trying this and tweaking that until eventually they make a discovery that creates something new. They bring the idea to life."
At point, the creation of such ideas will be accelerated, refined, packaged and prepared for launch it into the market place, he said.
"And with every step they take, they are helping to strengthen Nova Scotia's agriculture industry."
Perennia Innovation Centre facts:
The centre is a 25,000 sq.-ft., environmentally friendly facility designed to support the commercialization of primary agriculture- and marine-based inputs into high-value chain products.
It's aim is to help bio-resource companies with such things as determining feasibility of their products to producing small runs and full commercialization.
Total cost for the centre is $9.2 million of which $5.9 million was through provincial funding and $3.3 million in federal funding.
Nova Scotia has approximately 4,000 farms, which employ 5,200 people.
The province's agriculture brings in nearly $540 million in farm cash receipts annually as well as $229 million in international exports.