Partnerships of a Good Vintage
Most people will agree that in order for Atlantic Canada to grow, diversification of its economy is essential. Developing new industries, expertise and entrepreneurs are key elements of a prosperous future.
“At Springboard, our fundamental belief is that research is what bonds and strengthens the elements of economic development, giving ideas energy and new ventures confidence,” says past Springboard Executive Director, Dr. David Shindler.
An excellent example of the role research can play in the development of new industries can be found in the bucolic Annapolis Valley, or what may soon be known as the Napa Valley of the North.
The wine industry in Nova Scotia is growing at an impressive rate with 13 wineries and 500 acres of vineyards currently in production and experts projecting that the number will double over the next decade with an industry value of $23 million by 2020. Of particular interest is the Wolfville area, which Wines of Nova Scotia has identified as the epicenter of the wine country experience in Nova Scotia. However, many winery owners cite a lack of business expertise and access to scientific knowledge about critical issues such as insect control, organic growing strategies and grapevine cold hardiness as impediments to their ability to grow. In spite of all the forecasted potential and the tremendous will and passion of the vintners, they were frustrated in their attempts to easily access this type of expertise. That’s where
Acadia University’s Office of Industry and Community Engagement (ICE) saw an opportunity.
ICE Director Leigh Huestis has been working with winery owners and the Grape Growers and Winery Associations of Nova Scotia to determine what resources and expertise Acadia could share to help foster the wine industry.
“Listening to the needs and concerns of the winery owners, it was exciting to realize that by bringing them together with both the Acadia academic community and Springboard network, we could have a meaningful effect on their challenges and their success,” says Huestis. “I also knew that it would be rewarding for our researchers to be able to apply their knowledge in a practical setting. All around, this partnership was destined to be a win-win.”
Once both academia and industry realized this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, no time was wasted in engaging new projects on issues such as examining current insect populations, the design of an insect mitigation strategy, a business study to determine grape growing capacity in Nova Scotia and the use of an Acadia laboratory to analyze chemical compounds in wine when previously local wineries had to send their product to California for similar testing. ICE also put their Springboard resources to work to examine consumer acceptance and market potential for a new value-added wine product - a sparkling apple cider.
Dr Jonathan Murray, owner of Muir Murray Estate Winery in Wolfville was eager for the development of this product but knew that without solid research, it could fail miserably.
“ICE’s research really backed our assumptions that sparkling apple cider has the potential to perform well in the marketplace,” says Dr. Murray. “Now that we can present a solid, proven business case when we approach funders, opportunity for the development of this product is opening up.”
In June of 2011, Springboard network members Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Nova Scotia Community College partnered with Acadia to host the Atlantic Canadian Wine Industry Partnering Forum. The event brought scientific researchers, grape growers and wineries from throughout Atlantic Canada, Ontario and the US together to exchange ideas and build collaborations. With over 100 people in attendance, the event has successfully spawned new research projects, partnerships and enthusiasm.