TORONTO – In a bid to make up for a shortfall of high-quality nutritious food, some Canadian food banks are growing their own produce — and even farming fish.The Mississauga Food Bank recently launched AquaGrow Farms, where tilapia is being raised in tanks and lettuce is raised through hydroponics, or without soil.Executive director Christopher Hatch said the Ontario food bank is the first in Canada to be producing its own fish.“It’s not a complete solution, but it’s certainly in the right direction and it shows the community we’re thinking creatively about how to solve this problem,” said Hatch.There were just under 90,000 visits to food banks last year in Mississauga, Canada’s sixth largest city with a population of about 720,000.Donations of fresh food have been declining and higher food costs make it tougher to stretch donated cash.“People tend to want to give us a can of soup and box of Kraft Dinner, which is fine, but we’re trying to also source higher-quality nutritional value food,” said Hatch.A couple of years ago he began exploring aquaponics — which combines aquaculture, or fish farming, with hydroponics — and thought it could be a viable solution to raise nutritious food year-round.It takes about six months for tilapia fingerlings to reach about a kilogram in size, at which point they’ll be sent off-site for processing and packaging. The first harvest is expected at the end of March.The fish are the vegetable farmers, in a sense, as their waste, which is converted to nitrate, fertilizes the plants, says farm supervisor Colin Cotton. He’s experimenting with growing buttercrunch and romaine lettuce.“From seed to salad is about 60 days at the moment and we’re trying to cut that down to about 45 days,” he said.“Every week we harvest 36 heads of lettuce and that goes out to our member agencies all across Mississauga. We’re estimating in a year we can feed about 11,000 servings of lettuce so that’s pretty significant for such a small setup.“It’s already having a big impact in the community. We’ve been getting some feedback from clients who have received this lettuce and they have been very happy and feel very fortunate to have received this fresh lettuce especially when it’s dark and grey outside.”Clients of a food bank depot in Surrey, B.C., part of metro Vancouver, will also be the recipients of leafy salad greens, thanks to hydroponic growing walls donated by Ethan O’Brien, founder and owner of Living Garden Foods.During O’Brien’s last semester in a sustainable community redevelopment program at Simon Fraser University, students were challenged to find an organization in the community to which they could provide assistance.“I thought why don’t we talk to some local food banks, see what their problems are and see if maybe there’s an avenue where we could use vertical farming in the food bank to address food insecurity issues,” said O’Brien.Two growing walls, each about two metres high by four metres wide, are being installed at Zion Lutheran Church, which runs a food depot attended by about 80 families every two weeks.One wall can support 80 plants and yield 182 to 272 kilograms of lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard greens, kale or collards annually.Students attending an elementary school within the church will take on the responsibility of caring for the wall, says Marilyn Herrmann, executive director of the Surrey food bank, which serves 250 to 300 families per day.The types of items available at a food bank at any given time fluctuate, Hatch and Herrmann said, so having a regular source of fresh salad vegetables, at least, will be helpful.“I think people will appreciate the fact we’re looking at ways to increase our donations and we’re giving kids and a church an opportunity to really do something quite creative and supportive,” says Herrmann.Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter. by Lois Abraham, The Canadian Press Posted Feb 14, 2017 1:38 pm MDT Last Updated Feb 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Food banks growing own food – even farming fish – as donations decline Aquaponics farm supervisor Colin Cotton takes the cover off of tank containing Tilapia fish at AquaGrow Farms inside The Mississauga Food Bank in Mississauga, Ont., Friday February 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Katherine van Nes, Consultant Lead, Smart Industries, Hatch, notes that “digital transformation is beginning to catch on in the mining sector. The technology you and I trust to manage much of our lives has become so ubiquitous and so vital, its impact is now being felt deep underground. This conversion is long overdue, because digital tools are essential to addressing one of the biggest challenges most mines face today: variation in productivity.“Variety may be the spice of life, but it can be the kiss of death to a mining operation. Next to producing more volume or creating a better product, making things run more smoothly, consistently, and at the highest possible rate is the most effective way to cut costs and create value for any company. Operators are always surprised to find out just how much variation there is in their processes. But far better to recognize the problem and address it than have it continue to erode your productivity and your profits.“Well-run mines hit their monthly targets, but there is often still a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, with significant fluctuations day-to-day or week-to-week. We see situations where things slow down or stall simply because the necessary resources aren’t available. By optimizing the process, especially with the precision and real-time planning that digital solutions can make possible, people and equipment are at the right place at the right time, enabling the highest possible face or stope efficiency. There is less stop-and-go. Targets are reached consistently, efficiently, and uniformly. Planning improves because it’s being based on data that is real, verifiable evidence of what is possible. That means better process execution, which produces better, more consistent results…which lead to better planning…and so on.“So, where to start? To find opportunities to improve operational management systems, begin by looking at the three elements of successful organizational transformation: people, process, and technology.“It’s no accident that people are the first consideration. The crew is always on the front-line, responsible for successful execution. Operators need to know where they’re supposed to be, when and how to accomplish a task in the time allotted, and whether that amount of time is reasonable to complete the work. The right operations roles need to be defined so work can be organized and executed as efficiently as possible. Workers need to be able to change or refine execution strategies in real-time, based on what’s happening in the moment, not hours later in post-shift analysis reviews or reports.“In work planning, it’s the second element—process—that rules. Planning and scheduling become critical elements of the execution value chain. As technology changes, work processes themselves need to be able to adapt to fit. We don’t use our smart phones the same way we do landlines. Work processes must change to take advantage of opportunities that didn’t exist before. They’re only useful to the extent that they help a mine reach the goals that have been set for it.“The third leg is the right technology. There can be any number of reasons for variance in operational productivity. The experience, skill level, and resource loading of the crew can make a substantial difference. So can everything from the equipment used, to grade variances within a stope, to the complexity of the mine plan and mining methods. With the right communications and technology infrastructure and capable people who have been trained to use it, information and the work it tracks can be managed in real time. All the factors contributing to variation can be identified and measured, allowing us to control, mitigate, or eliminate them.“Operations like underground mines need to regularly undergo health checks. To guide you in assessing the state of your operation and determining an optimal path forward, ask three questions. Where are you now? How do you do what you do? What needs to be enabled for you to be successful and how would these changes be perceived by your personnel? With these answers and a well-conceived vision of what you want to accomplish, you’re ready to see how the right operational management system may be able to deliver the change—and the results—you’re looking for.”
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