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Feds to spend $4.95M on vertical farming project, research in northern Manitoba

Miyoung Suh's new project will continue to research food insecurity in northern Manitoba. ST. BONIFACE HOSPITAL RESEARCH MEDIA SERVICES

The federal government says it will spend nearly $5 million on a partnership that will see food growing smarter in several communities.

The funding will see the University of Manitoba partner with Opaskwayak Cree Nation to develop a smart vertical farming initiative for the First Nation.

The $4.95 million, to be doled out over the next six years, will support programs at the U of M, the University of Guelph and McGill University, as well as seven additional institutions.

Read more: Manitoba food banks to receive more than $414K in food after ‘surge in demand’

As part of her project, U of M professor Miyoung Suh will collaborate with Glenn Ross, executive director of OCN Health Authority, on developing real-world solutions to food and nutrition security in the community, according to the U of M.

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This project began when Ross introduced a vertical smart farm concept, complete with real-time automation, to the community. From there, he began working with Suh and others in the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at the U of M.

The first step of the project was successful, and now the pair will collaborate with other communities in the area that struggle with easily accessible fresh food, especially in the winter.

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“Of particular concern is the high incidences of gestational diabetes and spontaneous abortions in pregnant mothers” in areas where there is little fresh food, said the U of M.

“The researchers will test if fresh vegetables from the vertical farms, eaten during pregnancy, decreases these incidences.”

“Food is a basic entry point for building healthy communities,” Suh said in a press release. “The availability of fresh produce up north is limited, but smart technology involving local food production could be a simple solution in transforming those communities.”

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Ross added that the “SMART cities project and concept is the way of the future.”

“The world is now changing faster than we have ever seen and we are just starting to see how bad climate change can be and the threat it has on our grandchildren.

“The high quality of foods from the smart farm program will eliminate many diseases and help make health care sustainable in Canada. It will also help us sustain the earth for many generations to come without destroying our planet. This is our ultimate goal.”

The funding announced Monday comes from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

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