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Business ideas to be shared through sandbox initiative


BIBLE HILL - What is believed to be the world's first agricultural "sandbox" was launched on Friday at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture as a means to help foster new business ideas and innovation.

"It is a play space, that's why it's called a sandbox," said Dr. David Gray, dean of the agricultural campus.

"It's an opportunity for students, academics, industry and community to come together and share and explore potential business ideas and a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation," he told a crowd of more than 100 that included faculty staff, students, local business leaders and others.

"We are very excited by the initiative of an agricultural sandbox," Gray said. "And the interest that we've had from industry, our students, from our community is exceptional."

The initiative, formerly known as Cultiv8, is a partnership between the provincial government and Dalhousie and Acadia universities.

Acadia University already has a sandbox in operation called "Launchbox" that engages students across any faculty as well as high school students and its local community interested in discussing entrepreneurship.

Premier Stephen McNeil was also scheduled to attend, but Agricultural Minister Keith Colwell told the assembly that he had been detained by other "pressing" matters.

Like Gray, Colwell said he was "very excited" to be involved in the announcement because of the potential it promises to assist farmers and other entrepreneurs in helping to move the province's economy forward.

"Entrepreneurs have been farmers for so many years and they're not recognized often as being entrepreneurs," Colwell said.

Despite that lack of recognition, he added, farmers experience the same problems as other entrepreneurs in regard to meeting payrolls, with trying to figure out how to make more money, how to survive economically and also deal with cash-flow issues.

"But those are things that this (initiative) will give the students. An excellent opportunity to sandbox, to try all these things and understand how they work. And when they go out into business and they have success and new innovation, ideas in agriculture and other industries probably as you move forward, it will make sure that that young talent stays in this province and the innovation begins and continues here."

Dal president Richard Florizone described the sandbox concept as an "innovation eco system" that is expected to help foster economic growth in the province.

"It's all by working together (universities, government and industry) that we will get those new ideas, those new initiatives that will help Nova Scotia and bring new products, new services to people around the world. And it depends on that system, that eco system of collaboration, of partnership and support," he said.

"It's by working together that we attract students, that we create new companies and we can make our universities and cities, our towns, beacons of research and economic activity."

Florizone said while Dalhousie already conducts about 80 per cent of the research and development initiatives in the province, it is hoped that figure can grow under the sandbox concept.

"We know we can do better in terms of our connection to the community in bringing those ideas to life and working with our community partners, including businesses, to have a real impact," he said.

Robyn McCallum, student association president at the AC, echoed that sentiment.

"More than ever before, agriculture and food production demands innovation, creative thinking and teamwork. Our industry needs diversity, new co-operations and new ideas," she said.

"I'm confident that from our campus new businesses will be created, problems will be solved and new ways to consider agriculture will be born."

Yvonne Werner, a second-year Dal student from Germany, who now has Canadian citizenship, is the first person to register a business through the Cultiv8 program.

She is working on an initiative called aquascapist, to create high quality, disease and pest-free aquarium plants through tissue culture for the Canadian hobbyist market.

While the practice is fairly common in Europe, Werner said, in Canada, the majority of aquarium plants are imported from parts of Asia and too often they are neither disease nor pest free.

Her plan, following graduation, is to start a new business in the Truro area to fill that void in the Canadian market.

Werner said her long-term vision also involves collaborating with other research initiatives and to set up an accredited knowledge database that can be used for different applications, such as wastewater treatment and effluent from aquaculture and agriculture.

The research could also aid in looking for new sources for feed and food production.

"So there are a lot of possibilities to apply this knowledge," she said.

And while Werner said she has a decade of professional experience in Germany, as a student in Canada working from a limited income and a lack of professional contacts, makes her efforts seem all the more daunting.

But her belief is that the Cultiv8 concept - or playing in the sandbox as Gray suggested - can help change that.

"It connects you with people. It connects you with knowledge you need," she said.

"So, getting information, getting appointments with accountants or other resource, that's a big point."

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @tdnharry

   

 

"It is a play space, that's why it's called a sandbox," said Dr. David Gray, dean of the agricultural campus.

"It's an opportunity for students, academics, industry and community to come together and share and explore potential business ideas and a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation," he told a crowd of more than 100 that included faculty staff, students, local business leaders and others.

"We are very excited by the initiative of an agricultural sandbox," Gray said. "And the interest that we've had from industry, our students, from our community is exceptional."

The initiative, formerly known as Cultiv8, is a partnership between the provincial government and Dalhousie and Acadia universities.

Acadia University already has a sandbox in operation called "Launchbox" that engages students across any faculty as well as high school students and its local community interested in discussing entrepreneurship.

Premier Stephen McNeil was also scheduled to attend, but Agricultural Minister Keith Colwell told the assembly that he had been detained by other "pressing" matters.

Like Gray, Colwell said he was "very excited" to be involved in the announcement because of the potential it promises to assist farmers and other entrepreneurs in helping to move the province's economy forward.

"Entrepreneurs have been farmers for so many years and they're not recognized often as being entrepreneurs," Colwell said.

Despite that lack of recognition, he added, farmers experience the same problems as other entrepreneurs in regard to meeting payrolls, with trying to figure out how to make more money, how to survive economically and also deal with cash-flow issues.

"But those are things that this (initiative) will give the students. An excellent opportunity to sandbox, to try all these things and understand how they work. And when they go out into business and they have success and new innovation, ideas in agriculture and other industries probably as you move forward, it will make sure that that young talent stays in this province and the innovation begins and continues here."

Dal president Richard Florizone described the sandbox concept as an "innovation eco system" that is expected to help foster economic growth in the province.

"It's all by working together (universities, government and industry) that we will get those new ideas, those new initiatives that will help Nova Scotia and bring new products, new services to people around the world. And it depends on that system, that eco system of collaboration, of partnership and support," he said.

"It's by working together that we attract students, that we create new companies and we can make our universities and cities, our towns, beacons of research and economic activity."

Florizone said while Dalhousie already conducts about 80 per cent of the research and development initiatives in the province, it is hoped that figure can grow under the sandbox concept.

"We know we can do better in terms of our connection to the community in bringing those ideas to life and working with our community partners, including businesses, to have a real impact," he said.

Robyn McCallum, student association president at the AC, echoed that sentiment.

"More than ever before, agriculture and food production demands innovation, creative thinking and teamwork. Our industry needs diversity, new co-operations and new ideas," she said.

"I'm confident that from our campus new businesses will be created, problems will be solved and new ways to consider agriculture will be born."

Yvonne Werner, a second-year Dal student from Germany, who now has Canadian citizenship, is the first person to register a business through the Cultiv8 program.

She is working on an initiative called aquascapist, to create high quality, disease and pest-free aquarium plants through tissue culture for the Canadian hobbyist market.

While the practice is fairly common in Europe, Werner said, in Canada, the majority of aquarium plants are imported from parts of Asia and too often they are neither disease nor pest free.

Her plan, following graduation, is to start a new business in the Truro area to fill that void in the Canadian market.

Werner said her long-term vision also involves collaborating with other research initiatives and to set up an accredited knowledge database that can be used for different applications, such as wastewater treatment and effluent from aquaculture and agriculture.

The research could also aid in looking for new sources for feed and food production.

"So there are a lot of possibilities to apply this knowledge," she said.

And while Werner said she has a decade of professional experience in Germany, as a student in Canada working from a limited income and a lack of professional contacts, makes her efforts seem all the more daunting.

But her belief is that the Cultiv8 concept - or playing in the sandbox as Gray suggested - can help change that.

"It connects you with people. It connects you with knowledge you need," she said.

"So, getting information, getting appointments with accountants or other resource, that's a big point."

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @tdnharry

   

 

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