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National bee diagnostic centre backed for Peace region

Almost $1.2 million in federal backing has been pledged for a national centre for diagnostic health tests on bees, to be set up in northwestern Alberta’s Peace River region.

Grande Prairie Regional College will get $1,193,500 from Western Economic Diversification Canada to set up the National Bee Diagnostic Centre at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Beaverlodge Research Farm.

The centre is to be “the only one of its kind in Canada to offer a wide range of comprehensive services to beekeeping businesses all under one roof,” the federal government said in a release Friday.

The centre will focus on detection and diagnostics relating to honey bee health, as well as scientific support to facilitate imports and exports of bees, and preventing or reducing winter losses, the government said.

Specifically, the centre is expected to perform about 1,500 diagnostic services each year for businesses and other clients.

The WED funds are to go toward capital expenses including a mobile trailer and related diagnostic equipment, the government said. Grande Prairie Regional College is to manage the centre, which is meant to complement the college’s beekeeper technician program.

The project is “of great importance to food production industries throughout the country,” college CEO Don Gnatiuk said in the government’s release.

The federal support “will help ensure the continued health of this key sector while fostering the continued growth of beekeeping businesses,” local MP Chris Warkentin said in the same release.

One of the specialties of the Beaverlodge farm, an arm of AAFC’s Lacombe Research Centre, has been in the research and development of technology for “honey bees and other pollinating insects adapted to environmental conditions in northwestern Canada.”

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