The Hanfood Group has plans to increase the distribution of Saskatchewan agri-food products to the Asian market, and Cumberland College, based in Nipawin, wants to help them to achieve that goal.
A freshly signed memorandum of understanding will see Cumberland College play an active role in the applied research. President Tom Weegar told northeastNOW one of the areas Hanfood is struggling with is how to meet the potential demand.
"[Hanfood] is getting into a large city in China of 20,000,000," Weegar said. "How do they ensure that there is a steady supply of the product once it hits the shelves and customers love it?"
The Town of Nipawin is already playing an active role in the Hanfood Group's expansion. Plans are well underway on a new agriculture food park facility in the town, which is set for a fall, 2019 opening and will include a grain and oilseed terminal. One of Nipawin’s biggest exports, ice honey, is already being shipped to China and is available in their grocery stores. Weegar said the applied research done at the college may look at a number of different options for boosting honey production.
"A piece of bumping up production may involve backyard beekeeping where small homeowners who are thinking about beekeeping can have a hive and produce a few pounds or a dozen pounds a year," he said.
Weegar said another option could include discussions with Indigenous communities to develop business models around beekeeping.
Weegar said the college and Hanfood plan to work in consultation to further define partnership agreements in the future, including programs for Chinese student recruitment at Cumberland College. Moving forward, Weegar said the college is now in a great position to help many industry groups.
"We are now eligible to apply for social sciences and humanities research council grants, so we can work with industry to apply for federal grants to undertake some important research using our students and using our faculty to meet the needs of industry," he said.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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