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August 22, 2014 Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
Our Government is committed to a Canadian North with a viable commercial agricultural industry.
To this end, on August 22, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced measures to promote fresh food production in Canada’s North. These include $2 million in support to help establish a permanent campus for the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in Hay River, Northwest Territories, and up to $2 million toward the launch of the Northern Greenhouse Initiative, which is aimed at advancing the commercialization and enhancing the productivity of greenhouse projects across Canada’s North. The announcement was made during the Prime Minister’s ninth annual Northern Tour, taking place from August 21 to 26, 2014.
These new measures will help to provide Northerners with better access to healthy fresh local produce at lower costs, with communities less reliant on far-away producers.
Northern Farm Training Initiative
The NFTI was established by the Territorial Farmer’s Association in 2012 with a view to provide training opportunities to aspiring and active gardeners from across the Northwest Territories. It has been offering agricultural training to Fort Smith and other communities in the Northwest Territories for the past two years.
The Government support announced today for the NFTI will allow the facility to offer its programs year-round from a new permanent campus in Hay River. It will enable the Institute to better deliver agricultural training tailored to meet the needs of Aboriginal and northern communities in the Northwest Territories. The graduates from the Institute will be able to take the skills they learn – including training in greenhouse operations – back to their home communities, promoting the sharing of their know-how across the territory. The TFA has been working on a permanent campus for the NFTI since 2012.
The campus, which will be situated on a 300 acre parcel of arable land, will encompass a main building, seasonal greenhouses, header house, office, and classroom. Construction of the main building will begin in 2015. Once the NFTI campus is fully operational, students will be able to take courses in many aspects of agriculture including farming, greenhouses, and livestock. The campus would also be able to generate revenue by selling produce and flowers grown at the site.
In year one, the Government of Canada’s investment will support activities, including formalizing the NFTI organization, completing site assessment work, beginning site development, and the final design and engineering of the main campus building. Year two will involve building, renovation and construction, as well as preparing the land for planting.
The new NFTI campus is the intended future home of a new generation modular farm called the AgNorth pilot project. This scalable, modular farm system uses highly efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lighting and hydroponics technologies to grow produce indoors on a year-round basis. The AgNorth pilot project would be contained in the main building and students at the NFTI would have the opportunity to learn about and work with the new AgNorth technologies.
The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) has provided two years of funding support to Aurora Research Institute (Aurora College) for their market study and business case for AgNorth: $270,000 in 2012-13, and $210,000 in 2013-14. AgNorth was developed by the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility and COM DEV, a private international company headquartered in Ontario. AgNorth is a modular farm that optimizes plant growth through spectrum-tuned LED lighting and nutrient-monitored hydroponic solution. Designed to use modular units and local resources, these systems will be able to be shipped and operated year-round, throughout the North.
CanNor’s funding supported the market study, business case, and initial work toward a northern pilot project. For the AgNorth Pilot Project, a suitable site was needed. The proposed NFTI campus provides an ideal site as students can receive hands-on training on AgNorth technologies.
The University of Guelph’s research into modular farm technology is supported by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency, and follows 10 years of successfully operating a high arctic greenhouse research facility on Devon Island, to model food production in space.
Northern Greenhouse Initiative
The Northern Greenhouse Initiative will provide support to advance the commercialization and enhance the productivity of greenhouse projects across Canada’s North. The Government of Canada, through its Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, will, on September 1, 2014, issue a call for partnership proposals to advance this initiative. Commercializing greenhouses could improve access to healthy food options in the North and increase jobs and economic opportunities in the three territories.
This initiative will support feasibility studies aimed at increasing food production for community greenhouse projects, expansions to existing greenhouses, business planning and startup costs for new greenhouses.
By providing skills training, technology and capital, the Government is addressing some of the key challenges to establishing a more robust agricultural sector in the North, while supporting solutions to the high cost of living experienced across Canada’s three territories.