I have over the past few weeks discussed the topic of larger debt and increased government spending as well as the serious challenges that can be created if this situation is left unchecked. There is a temptation in government to build newer, larger buildings and mega projects or
to create new and expanded programs.
Often we tend to forgo examining current infrastructure and programs to ensure that those dollars are being used wisely or if there may be greater value in an existing taxpayer investment that we can benefit from today. I am encouraged to share with you one such example this
week, of a long term government asset potentially paying dividends to our region.
Many area residents within Okanagan-Coquihalla are likely familiar with the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre located in the hills above Trout Creek just off Highway 97.
However, what may be less familiar is the important work that is conducted here, supported largely by your federal tax dollars. Last week I was honoured to represent Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in presenting a relatively modest $ 261,000 grant in support of research being
conducted in partnership between Innovative Food Systems Corp and scientists at the facility. This research can have a significant impact on our local fruit growing economy as you will soon learn.
One of the current challenges with freshly picked fruit is that it typically has a shelf life of roughly seven days. In order to access larger and more profitable markets, shipping must be done either
by air for international delivery, or via truck for the North American markets.
Both options are extremely expensive and time sensitive. Imagine if a new innovative antimicrobial packaging system could prevent fungi, mould and bacterial growth and ensure that fresh fruit remains fresh for upwards of twenty five to thirty days. Not only does this technology
preserve ripe fruits, it also helps prevent costly waste. This increase from roughly one week to one month means that marine shipping can now be an option for international markets and rail for those elsewhere around North America.
Decreased shipping costs allow growers to more economically access and capitalize on global demand. Marine and rail transportation are also more environmentally friendly and can reduce carbon emissions by roughly 60% when compared to existing shipping options. Food safety is also increased as this technology can protect food from many common pathogens and that in turn may help reduce healthcare costs.
The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland represents a significant investment of our tax dollars over time. However the experience and expertise of the staff and infrastructure of this
facility are important assets for our region. In this case it is encouraging that a partnership with industry in support of our local agricultural community can, in turn, enhance our regional economy, all done locally. The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland will be holding an open house towards the end of September and I would encourage all citizens to attend and learn more about this unique facility.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.