Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle.
By Meaghan Seagrave, BioNB
The story of New Brunswick is the same as many rural areas in the world – with taxpayer funds that are stretched thinly to support isolated communities and seasonal or commodity industries facing challenging economic pressures.
Everyone talks about the next “boom,” as if a single industry is going to fly in and save the day. Look to other Canadian regions and you’ll discover that a single industry saviour isn’t the solution. What happens when you put all your eggs in one basket, as in Alberta, where the entire economy plummets from a drop in the price of one commodity. What happens when that player gets up and leaves? Look to Southern Ontario, teetering on hard times as GM and Ford move manufacturing to the US and Mexico.
New Brunswick’s rise won’t be based on a “boom” industry and nor should it be. Prosperity will come from the successful marriage of old industry and new; an inter-connected economy that asks for the best from our researchers, visionaries, engineers, communicators; and from our farmers, fishers, and foresters.
I’m talking, of course, about the green economy. The Bioeconomy. The bio-based economy. Whatever buzz word suits you.
What is the Bioeconomy?
“Bioeconomy” refers to the set of economic activities relating to the investment, development, production and use of biological products and processes in a sustainable way. A successful bioeconomy is built on the back of a region’s natural resources, which are processed and transformed into high value products like medicine, bioplastic, biofuel, and electricity. Consider LaForge Bioenvironmental of Saint-André New Brunswick, a dairy farm and biogas facility that is turning cow manure and potato scraps into clean energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer. The transformation is performed by two anaerobic digesters that are generating enough electricity to power their entire operation and 1,000 homes in the area.
The Netherlands is a great example of a region transitioning from a fossil fuel based economy to a bioeconomy in order to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, meet greenhouse gas emission targets, and strengthen their economy as a whole. They have developed a comprehensive political and economic outlook that is projected to result in a total renewable energy share of 50%-60%. Their outlook calls for strategic investments in bio-based production systems, and strong incentives and policies that will enable the sector to grow at pace.
Why Develop a Bioeconomy?
Why would a region move toward a bio-based economy?
(1) Resilient and diversified
Economies buoyed by a single industry or commodity are at the mercy of market fluctuations. A bio-based economy is a broad economy that requires skills and solutions from manufacturing, engineering, agriculture, transportation, information technology, biotech, and support and service industries. The bioeconomy reduces greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to energy security, and grows the agriculture, chemical and energy sectors.
(2) Creates High and Low Skilled Jobs
The bioeconomy is built from the ground up. It employs a diverse workforce: everyone from harvesters to sales-people, manufacturing, skilled trades, lab technicians, PhD researchers, and the software developers creating tech solutions to connect these companies in the 21st century.
(3) Environmentally Sustainable
A bio-based economy creates products and solutions that reduce our dependency on petroleum-based products. The future is a world that uses fuel, materials, and chemicals made from renewable resources and waste from other processes.
(4) Capitalizes and develops our region’s natural competencies
New Brunswick’s history is built on 150 years of experience innovating in our traditional sectors of forestry, agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries. The bioeconomy will require us to build on this experience and innovate with modern solutions.
The Good News for New Brunswick
The best part? New Brunswick has everything it needs to become a bio-based economy and a leader in bio-based business and research. We already have 14 research institutions and 111 companies working and innovating in the biosciences. The region is waking up the opportunity in the bioeconomy, with over $60 million in investments in forestry biotech, agritech, medtech and other technologies since 2012.
We have what it takes to attract big business, sprout new ventures, and create jobs and prosperity. What we need are policies and private-sector investment to push the opportunity forward. Citizens can make change by seizing the business opportunity for themselves. New Brunswick is punching above its weight when it comes to helping people start businesses – that’s the whole “innovation ecosystem” people keep talking about.
Let’s make the bioeconomy more than just a buzz word – let’s make it our future.
When it comes to starting a business for the bioeconomy, BioNB is the one-stop-shop for new entrepreneurs and established small and medium enterprises. Our team is diverse and has backgrounds in business development, marketing, biology, chemistry, IT, international trade, and we want to help you.
Visit us at BioNB.org and contact our team to access our business services. Learn about cutting edge technologies and meet the Atlantic bioscience community at the Atlantic Biorefinery Conference, coming to Halifax May 30th – June 1st.
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