N.S. to merge three ag research, extension agencies

Three provincial-level agriculture research, development and extension agencies in Nova Scotia will join its ongoing consolidation of ag services through a merger by the end of next month.

The province on Friday announced the forming of a new Crown corporation, Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc., combining the agencies now known as AgraPoint, the Atlantic BioVenture Centre and AgriTECH Park.

Perennia will be based at AgriTECH Park at Bible Hill and will also operate an office at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Kentville.

"We will offer industry a single point of contact to address their primary production, food safety, product development and incubation needs, as well as link them to researchers and other government resources that can offer additional services," Jo Ann Fewer — director of business integration and planning for AgraPoint and NSAC, and CEO of the new merged agency — said in a release Friday.

"Perennia is the perfect vehicle to work with department staff and industry to help producers and processors become more competitive, adopt new and innovative agricultural practices and create higher-margin products," provincial Ag Minister John MacDonell said in the same release.

"It is important to ensure producers succeed for rural communities since farmers spend more than 60 per cent of their income within 30 miles of their farms and 90 per cent within Nova Scotia."

The merger follows the province’s announcement late last month that it would move its agriculture department’s head office, now based in Halifax with 34 staff, to the Truro-Bible Hill area by the end of this year.

Truro-Bible Hill is already home to 141 provincial ag department staff, a number of federal ag agencies and commodity groups, and the provincially-operated Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC), which this fall becomes the agriculture campus of Dalhousie University.

The Perennia merger will involve 40 employees and is expected to be complete by the end of June, the province said Friday.

AgraPoint, which began in 2001 in Kentville as the Agricultural Development Institute and is closely linked to NSAC, is a Crown corporation tasked with providing "development services" to build the value-added segment of Nova Scotia’s ag industry.

AgraPoint also provides for-fee ag services such as nutrient management planning, dairy nutrition training, site assessments, efficacy trials and event planning, as well as no-cost and cost-recovery ag extension and applied research work such as crop tests under contract with the provincial ag department.

The Atlantic BioVenture Centre, set up in 2005 at Bible Hill as an operating division of NSAC, is meant to work with the primary and processing sectors in both the agrifood and aquafood sectors on value chain developments and technology transfer, based on a "development requiring research" philosophy.

AgriTECH Park, which bills itself as "Atlantic Canada’s Bio-economy Village," was set up in 1998 on a rural property near NSAC and serves as the college’s commercialization wing for the agrifood, marine and environmental sectors.

The park, which houses a number of public- and private-sector agencies, offers leasing and business support services for bioscience start-ups and other companies in growth or development mode.

Related stories:
NSAC, Dal formal merger pushed to Sept. 1, May 9, 2012
N.S. moving ag department head office to Truro, April 30, 2012

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