CURVE LAKE — With the construction of a band-owned facility that will harness  the combined powers of aquaponics and hydroponics, Curve Lake First Nation is  forging a new path toward self-sufficiency and economic autonomy. 

The community is currently constructing a 45,000-square-foot facility on  Mississauga Street that will be home to both a fish farm and a greenhouse once  complete. Eight bays — covering a 19,000 square foot area — within the facility  will be dedicated to fish production. 

The area will be home to a recirculating aquaculture system — cutting-edge  technology that continuously pumps fresh water from a well — where barramundi  white fish will be raised and eventually harvested for sale. 

The hydroponics component of the operation will see a variety of fresh  produce grown on-site. Four bays within the facility will be designated for  growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, spinach and arugula. 

Curve Lake First Nation plans to sell the home-grown fish and vegetables at  local farmers markets and is in talks to form partnerships with grocery chains.  A seafood market in the Greater Toronto Area has also expressed interest.

Curve Lake First Nation hopes to eventually generate 275,000 pounds of  barramundi fish each year through the aquaponics operation. 

Community members will also be able purchase the harvested goods — a retail  store will be built at the front of the facility. 

The facility — formalized following a feasibility study in 2019 — was born  out of a shared desire from community members and leaders to foster  self-sustainability, Brandon Jacobs, Curve Lake First Nation’s manager of  economic development and tourism, told The Examiner. 

“Food security was a big reason, too. (During the pandemic) we realized the  importance of having our own food source within the community and that kind of  evolved the project,” Jacobs said, who is helping lead the project alongside  Curve Lake First Nation’s economic development director Mindy Knott. 

The project, originally pegged at $4 million, is receiving some funding from  the federal government. 

The aim is to make the facility efficient, sustainable — and environmentally  friendly. 

The design of the facility will follow a “zero discharge” model and will only  use about 10 to 15 gallons per minute thanks to the integrated recirculating  aquaculture system, according to Jacobs. 

“With the exterior of the facility, we’ve secured some funding to do green  infrastructure, so permeable pavement will be used at the outside of the  facility instead of standard pavement used in parking lots. It’s a green  infrastructure approach we’re looking at,” Jacobs said. 

The facility is creating employment opportunities in Curve Lake First Nation,  too. Up to 15 jobs stand to be created during the construction phase of the  facility. Once the operation is up and running, five full-time job positions  will become available, said Jacobs. 

Jacobs noted the significance of the facility being led for the community, by  the community of Curve Lake First Nation. 

“It is a Curve Lake First Nation owned and operated business. It will be a  revenue source for the community and it will provide employment opportunities  and educational opportunities for the youth as well,” Jacob said.

“We’re hoping to add an educational component so kids can come and see how  the production works and what the life cycle is like at the facility.”

It’s important to promote self-sustainability and self-sufficiency to younger  generations, he said. 

“The next step is to construct the greenhouse, whether that happens now or  when the weather is more agreeable. We’re shooting for early spring to have  that,” Jacobs said. 

As for an anticipated completion date, Jacobs said Curve Lake First Nation is  aiming to have the facility operational by December 2023. 

Original Published on Nov 24, 2022 at 17:36

By Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This item reprinted with permission from   The Peterborough Examiner   Peterborough, Ontario

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