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CBC: Northern Manitoba First Nation aims to help feed community, fight diabetes with expanded vertical farm project

July 9, 2021 — 

As CBC Manitoba reports:

A northern Manitoba community has turned to technology to help grow veggies year-round — part of an expansion of a project that aims to generate health, economic and environmental benefits in the community.

A “smart” vertical farm that has been running since 2016 in Opaskwayak Cree Nation got a funding boost this week as part of a federal program focused on improving health and well-being.

The farm, which is inside Opaskwayak’s community hall, already supplies over a hundred families in the community — next to The Pas and is about 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg — with free, fresh produce from over 75 plants grown in a hydroponic, automated vertical farm system.

In a vertical farm system, plants are grown in vertically stacked layers, usually indoors and without soil. That approach results in a smaller carbon footprint than traditional farming methods. 

The Opaskwayak farm uses artificial intelligence, using two computer systems to monitor the plants and manipulate lighting, nutrients, water and carbon dioxide levels.

It began as a pilot project in 2016, and this week, the federal government announced it will share part of $4.95 million in funding over six years as part of a federal “smart cities” training program that aims to build knowledge in ways to make cities healthier.

The funding will support projects at three universities, including the University of Manitoba, which is collaborating with the Opaskwayak Health Authority on the vertical farm.

Read the full CBC story here.

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