Building the bioeconomy in Ontario’s North


By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

North Bay – A new centre is driving development of the bioeconomy in northern Ontario. The Biomass North Development Centre – Biomass North for short – was formed this past summer after Nipissing University withdrew its support from the Biomass Innovation Centre it had established in 2009.

The focus of the new not-for-profit is research, innovation, and growth in clean technology and the bioeconomy, mostly centred around forestry, as a way to stimulate economic development and job creation in Ontario’s North.

“We have a robust bioeconomy emerging in northern Ontario that needs the type of support that Biomass North can provide,” explains Project Director Francis Gallo. “That includes providing news and information to our members, marketing and technical support, as well as opportunities for business and development.”

Biomass North is now a member-based sector association that represents the entire bioeconomy supply chain from harvesters and equipment manufacturers, to producers of biofuels and innovative bioproducts, as well as academia, municipalities and government.

Its three principal membership groups include the public sector (municipalities, First Nations and economic development corporations), the private sector (such as energy providers, consultants or equipment manufacturers for example), and large industry like processors and manufacturers.

Gallo says Biomass North’s strength lies in its networks and partnerships across the sector.

They can assist with marketing and technical consulting services, for example, such as market research on emerging bioproduct opportunities, surveys, or site assessments.

They also focus on organizing tours, seminars, workshops, and trade shows, such as the 2015 Forestry Automation Expo being held November 10 in Sudbury.

“The province has forecast a labour shortage in forest harvesting so we’re trying to offset the coming bottle neck by showcasing advancements in automation and the modernization of equipment in the sector,” explains Gallo, adding that the trade show is a pre-cursor to the three day Naturallia 2015 international conference focused on building business alliances in the natural resources sector.

“It’s a type of speed dating event mostly geared towards small and medium enterprises in the natural resources sector, where participating businesses are matched for business to business meetings in the areas of value-added forestry, smart energy development, advanced manufacturing and mining,” he says.

All those activities are underpinned by Biomass North’s new flagship project – the Northern Ontario Bioeconomy Strategy it initiated together with the Union of Ontario Indians, which represents 39 First Nations groups in Ontario, in consultation with northern municipalities and significant representation from the sector. Biomass North will be leading the Strategy’s implementation.

Gallo says the ultimate goal for Biomass North is to create a level playing field for Ontario’s North within the forestry bioeconomy by helping to modernize the sector and reduce barriers to growth.

“There are many proven technologies that have been used in other parts of the world for decades, and there are opportunities Ontario should be taking advantage of, especially in the North,” Gallo believes. “Not only are we creating sustainable energy and products, but we’re also making positive contributions to the environment, and creating jobs and social infrastructure in the North which will have benefit for all Ontarians in the long term.”

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