Collaboration Between KPU and Tech Consortium to Encourage Sustainable Research

The partnership will provide benefits for local businesses and KPU students

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Amy Huang and Andre Felicio removing the cover (Remay) from a raised bed containing Kale plants. The plants were treated with a native insect called the baculovirus which is non-toxic to everything except this species. (Submitted)

Small businesses in the Fraser Valley and those in KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture can look forward to future collaboration between the institute and technology consortium SRTec.

The Sumas Regional Consortium for High Tech is designed to create more jobs and innovation in the field of technology. It is constituted by local politicians, industry partners, and educational institutions such as KPU, and helps those looking to start a business in tech to accomplish their goals.

KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture is an academic body focused on environmentally friendly horticulture, silviculture, forestry, and urban landscapes. Its Bio-Controls Research Group, which functions on the Langley campus, studies microbial insect pathogens made to get rid of crop pests without the harmful effects of pesticides.

The two parties have agreed, through a letter of understanding, to work together on future projects. They became aware of each other’s presence after SRTec came to KPU while looking for a place to conduct research about growth trials for an agricultural amendment product. Through that meeting, they discovered that the two organizations were in contact with many of the same people, and decided to build their network together.

“We thought, ‘Maybe we should make it more efficient and get together to talk about it once in a while,’ to discuss the kind of things we’ve been doing and who’s coming in, and do that with good confidentiality. That’s how the LOI came about,” says Dr. Deborah Henderson, director of the institute. “Basically, it says that [KPU and SRTec]I are going to meet twice a year and try to help these companies with all of the resources that are available. And there are different resources available to us than there are to the business incubator.”

In practice, this connection between SRTec and KPU will give local businesses interested in agriculture a place to conduct their research and horticulture students an opportunity to become a technological entrepreneur, if they so desire.

“SRTec really supports the business side of small businesses and we support the research and development side, when it has to do with agriculture or sustainable language,” says Henderson. “If students want to start a small business, they would be welcome to join them and take advantage of those opportunities, and students will always be in the projects that we conduct.”

There is already a project underway as a result of the LOI. Henderson is preparing to send a research proposal to NSERC for the development of a company’s agricultural venture. That company was introduced to KPU by SRTec.

“[The company] is blending biochar with compost, and we’re looking at how to optimize the use of that biochar because it has benefits for plants and the environment and the compost,” says Henderson.

If approved, the research will begin in six weeks and go on for six months, all within the institute’s greenhouse. There, an entire class of KPU horticulture students will help with and observe the project. Three jobs will be created through the research as well—two part-time positions for students, and one full-time position for a recent graduate from the university’s horticulture program.

“I think that what we’ve got going at Kwantlen is pretty special,” says Henderson. “What [an SRTec representative] first told me the first time I met him was, ‘Of all the small places a company can go for help doing research and development in the Fraser Valley, ours is about the best,’ which is pretty nice praise.”

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