ViaTalenta Group and Cape Breton University Collaborate for Sustainable Innovation Focused on Food Security

Cape Breton University (CBU) and ViaTalenta Group Ltd (VTG), with its Americas headquarters in Canada, are delighted to announce their collaboration to foster economic growth and environmental and social impact in the region. Through their portfolio companies, VTG will invest $20-24 million in sustainable agriculture and talent development in the region.

The first pilot project, Turtle Greens Ltd, will cover the establishment of a one-hectare, state-of-the-art, sustainable greenhouse on the recently acquired plot adjacent to CBU. This will provide Cape Breton with its first carbon-neutral production facility focused on food security.

“I am pleased that VTG has chosen our Island to build this significant piece of infrastructure that will increase food security, create jobs, and provide educational opportunities to our community and educational partners,” says David C. Dingwall, President and Vice Chancellor at Cape Breton University.

To further support the capability development, VTG and CBU are planning to create a Research Chair in Sustainability and Precision Agriculture, leveraging VTG’s international network of knowledge and applied research. This is part of VTG’s response to the COVID-pandemic, which has intensified the need for distributed food supply chains, competition for jobs and increased the skills requirements.

Through this new unit, students will acquire the much-needed skills to address the food security and climate crisis. This includes exploring advanced sustainable agricultural practices using the latest advances in technology, acquiring practical experience and gaining an understanding of plant science and its impact on sustainable production, nutrition and health.

“When VTG invests, it does so in a comprehensive manner to ensure that the impact is generated across a theme. Food security, education and economic development are at the heart of our activities in the Atlantic region and this pilot is one of many to come,” says Georgio Pauen, CEO of ViaTalenta Group.

The Government of Canada is providing a $2.5 million repayable contribution through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program toward the sustainable greenhouse and advanced manufacturing equipment to support this project. The fully automated system, from planting through to harvesting, will produce a variety of herbs and leafy greens, such as salad greens and kale.

“I’m always excited when I hear of great innovation projects happening in Cape Breton and North Eastern Nova Scotia. It’s projects like this one that will move our economy forward,” says Mike Kelloway, Member of Parliament for Cape Breton – Canso, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA.In Cape Breton and North Eastern Nova Scotia, we have short summers and harsh winters. This presents a challenge when it comes to growing food locally and sustainably, something that is critical to accessing fresh, affordable and nutritious produce year-round. I’m proud that our government is supporting this project. Beyond improving food security in our communities, it will create high quality jobs and provide skills development opportunities to new graduates and under-represented community members in the area.”

Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), the province’s business development agency, approved a payroll rebate for the company of up to $846,825 over five years to support the creation of up to 60 jobs at the operation.

“Turtle Greens Ltd, of ViaTalenta Group Ltd, is the kind of company we are pleased to work with at NSBI,” says Laurel Broten, President and CEO, Nova Scotia Business Inc. “By choosing Nova Scotia to establish its innovative operation, this company will create high-value jobs and sustainable agri-food products for sale regionally and beyond, which strengthens both the sector and our communities.”

Annette Verschuren, Chancellor of Cape Breton University, says, “I am excited to see ViaTalenta choose Cape Breton as a place to build and operate a modern greenhouse that will bring new technology to our island and will improve the sustainability and productivity of food, especially in fresh greens.”

VTG is thankful for the support and expertise provided by the Embassy of Canada in Switzerland, in particular the Trade Commissioner Service that facilitated VTG’s ability to connect with the appropriate partners in Cape Breton and Canada.

Her Excellency Susan Bincoletto, Ambassador of Canada to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, says, “It is very rewarding for us at the Embassy to work with and enable an organization like ViaTalenta Group in its quest to build sustainable and impactful investments in Canada. This represents the Canada-Switzerland relationship at its very best.”