WSDG Co-Establishes Specialized Canadian Consortium to Improve Food Security and Nutrition Overseas

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The Waterloo Sustainable Development Group (WSDG), Ripple Farms, the University of Lethbridge, and Lethbridge College have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to initiate collaborative efforts to further develop Aquaponics and related sustainable agriculture technologies that enhance overseas food production and security.

According to the latest World Food Program “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2017)” report, the number of chronically undernourished people around the world is believed to have increased to around 815 million in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015, sending a clear warning that the ambition of achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 by the year 2030, to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, will be challenging.

The report stated that overcoming the obstacles necessary to achieve SDG 2 requires renewed innovative and collaborative efforts that will tackle rising rates of child malnutrition, anemia among women, and adult obesity. It also indicated that multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of the aforementioned problems.

Realising the great potential Aquaponics can play in attaining higher levels of food security and improved nutrition through contained environmentally friendly, water-efficient, and localised healthy food production, WSDG, Ripple Farms, the University of Lethbridge, and Lethbridge College have agreed to explore joint collaboration opportunities to accelerate the development of reliable state-of-the-art Aquaponics technologies overseas.

This consortium will utilize WSDG’s sustainable development expertise and growing international network, Ripple Farm’s innovative aquaponics systems, and the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College’s exemplary research capacities, particularly through Lethbridge College’s Aquaculture Centre of Excellence, which conducts internationally renowned research in aquaculture, aquaponics, ecosystem health, water quality, conservation, and management.

Tarek AlFarra

Commenting on the new collaboration, WSDG CEO Tarek AlFarra stated that “this Waterloo Sustainable Development Group led effort provides a very unique and rare opportunity to achieve, along with our international private and public-sector clients and partners, significant improvements in food security around the world. Capitalizing on our collective expertise in sustainable agriculture and development, we are able to provide the latest economically sound technologies and international best practices in food production through Aquaponics, especially in regions of the world with extreme hot or cold climates”.

Greg Vilk

For his part, Dr Greg Vilk, University-Industry Liaison Office (UILO) Manager at the University of Lethbridge said: “We are excited to explore opportunities to translate our applied research capabilities in agriculture, genomics, chemistry, water, economics, and the environment to advance Agricultural practices locally and around the world, thereby increasing food production to meet society’s current and future needs.

As a former 4X entrepreneur, I see the value in collaborating with multiple partners for agile ventures that have the strength to validate higher-risk technologies and ideas for their accelerated implementation of socioeconomic benefits. A multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary collaboration of this nature is critical to solve lofty challenges, especially in the Agri-Food sector”.

Jagvir Singh

Moreover, Jagvir Singh, Director, Applied Research and Innovation – ‎Lethbridge College, pointed out that “Lethbridge College is the leading institute in aquaponics research across Canada, having established our program in 1989. This new MOU provides a unique and important opportunity to explore research collaboration opportunities with our partners as we work to commercialize our existing know-how”.

Brandon Hebor

Brandon Hebor, Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder of Ripple Farms Inc. said that “Ripple Farms is excited to provide operational and technical expertise for the implementation of international Food Security projects through this joint venture. The WSDG-led consortium enables the continuous development and innovation of sustainable food systems by bringing together top scientists, operational experts and technical expertise with a shared vision for Food Security.”

Aquaponics is a system of agriculture in which conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals in controlled tanks) is combined with hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water without soil) in a symbiotic relationship whereby the aquatic animal waste provides the nutrients for the plants to grow.

Ripple Farms co-founder Steven Bourne inspecting an aquaponics fish tank.

With its ability to produce more food per square meter than conventional farming throughout the whole year, its remarkable water consumption efficiency (using less than 15% of conventional agriculture), and lack of susceptibility to droughts, floods and pests due to its relatively protected and controlled set up, aquaponics is increasingly recognized as a sustainable organic agricultural method that can significantly improve food security and quality in any urban or rural community, especially when combined with space-use maximizing configurations such as vertical farming.

WSDG and its partner organizations aim to begin work on a commercial aquaponics facility overseas in 2018.

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