‘Namgis First Nation to build commercial-scale hydroponic farm

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This innovative technology will increase ‘Namgis First Nation’s food sovereignty

The ‘Namgis First Nation is setting up a local food production system using Growcer hydroponic technology through a new investment with Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).

According to a news release from ICET, this innovative technology will increase ‘Namgis First Nation’s food sovereignty.

“Through its direct-to-consumer distribution model, the new community-owned enterprise will support residents and local businesses.”

The project is being led by ‘Namgis Business Development Corporation (NBDC), which is wholly owned by the ‘Namgis First Nation. Based in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay, Cormorant Island), the project will strengthen local food security, generate new economic activity, and contribute to rising community wellbeing. Due to its distant location from urban-focused food supply chains, the community is taking ownership over its food production to supply more affordable and healthy food options. This new investment will significantly reduce food miles and risks related to long distance supply chains.

Built in Canada, Growcer is a modular hydroponic agritech food solution specifically designed to thrive in harsh climates. It can yield produce crops within six weeks. The efficient system requires less land and uses less water than traditional farming methods. These systems achieve a 12-month growing season, supplying nutritious local produce throughout the year.

Once installed, the project will generate a steady income through a direct-to-consumer subscription box that benefits residents and the flourishing local tourism sector. It will further encourage start-ups in food processing and value-added services to bolster local business opportunities.

Through a reciprocal relationship with the Nawalakw Community Garden, the project benefits from ‘Namgis members’ local growing expertise and passion to see food security become a reality for the ‘Namgis people.

The project will begin in February 2024, targeting a spring completion. It’s designed with future expansion in mind, too, with plans to add 1-2 Growcer hydroponic units. By hosting tours and sharing how the project became a reality, they hope to foster local growing projects in other North Island communities and First Nations.

ICET says it is investing $100,000 with the ‘Namgis Business Development Corporation, through its Capital and Innovation Program, towards a total investment of $385,000.

“This project investment is focused on building the local economy and strengthening wellbeing through the Food Security and Agrifood impact stream.”

ICET has previously invested in similar projects, including Dock+, The Port Alberni Regional Food Hub, and Tiičma Fisheries Aquaculture Logistics Facility.

“We, the ‘Namgis First Nation, along with the NBDC appreciate the opportunity to address food security through hydroponics,” said Chief Victor Isaac, ‘Namgis First Nation. “The ‘Namgis First Nation has always relied mostly on importing fruits and vegetables. These items have become so costly members struggle with making healthy choices. This initiative will increase our community garden’s products and also provide knowledge on growing with hydroponics.”

“Food security has long been an issue on the North Island, especially in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay),” noted Gaby Wickstrom, General Manager, ‘Namgis Business Development Corp. “We are optimistic this small-scale, pilot project will lead to expansion, which will be of tremendous benefit to other communities in the region.”

Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island, says she is “excited for this hydroponic farm project for the ‘Namgis First Nation to improve their food sovereignty and create a meaningful movement towards self-sufficiency. This production system will benefit local businesses and all members of the community.”

Aaron Stone, ICET Chair, added, “We are excited to invest with the ‘Namgis First Nation on this innovative agritech project. This initiative is more than an economic boost. Its impact will create a resilient community by providing affordable, healthy food options locally, while also protecting them from supply chain disruptions. It’s a model that could transform food sovereignty across our region.”

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