Acadia University

Unlimited potential in developing Canada's next wine region

A small, primarily undergraduate educational facility in rural Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Acadia University has seen success in its technological commercialization, mandated eight years ago.

A function to transfer technology facility research to the industry of software, research, and licensing, now appearing in most Canadian universities, promotes the ultimate goal to develop a Nova Scotia-based facility dedicated to wine research.

Accordingly, there has been a significant amount of success with a variety of developments in the various technological divisions at Acadia. There have been plenty of liaison activities with respective industries designed to spur local economic development.

“When we did engage with industry it tended to be larger corporations. However, over last couple years with the installation of the new president, we had a look at what we have been doing in engaging industry members,” said Leigh Huestis, Director of the Office of Industry and Community Engagement (ICE) with Acadia University.

“With our renewed mandate we refocused our efforts with the realization that local economic development, especially here [in Nova Scotia], is extremely important, so that is where the new ICE office is going.” If the industry wants to engage in a research project or hire a co-op student, rent a facility, or is simply looking for innovation, valued added services, or new product development, the ICE office serves these functions to the university and its community.

“For those looking to perhaps hire a co-op student, we are here to act as the interface for industry, no matter what kind of engagement or partnership the company has in mind,” added Huestis. In this facility, students participate in real world hands-on experience by engaging in applied research and day-to-day issues.

“[Through the Winery Association of Nova Scotia], we engage with a numbers of wineries on research projects and student-related projects to develop with the association a specialized facility at Acadia for the chemical analysis of wine. Wineries typically have to send their wine to facilities for wine analysis, so a specialized facility will be unique in Canada,” added Huestis.

A new experience at Acadia

A 172-year-old university, Acadia has undergone “significant physical transformation” since 2000, according to Scott Roberts, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Acadia. With a significant commitment to the Annapolis Valley, in which it is located, tradition will see the university celebrate its more than 100 years of research dedicated to tidal energy (environmental research is being conducted in the Bay of Fundy), as a “contemporary incarnation of the ethos and value system” the university has had for a long time.

Industry liaison focus

“Through our efforts over the next few years, it won’t happen over night, but we want to focus on Nova Scotia as one of the key three wine regions in Canada,” said Huestis. “[Nova Scotia] is growing dramatically and produces just incredible wine.”

The belief is that universities are tremendous repositories of skill and knowledge and, more specifically, intellectual capital, according to Ray Ivany, President and Vice Chancellor of Acadia.

“These institutions need to be focused on having that intellectual capital living outside its walls; it’s a social obligation,” said Ivany. “The office itself is designed as a open portal, intended for any business industry or community group to get access to resources, advice and facilitation, to make it as easy as possible for anyone external to the university to have that opportunity.”

The portal is the latest version of how best to connect the community and, according to Ivany, the early indications are very good. “The wine industry is a rapidly developing community component and we hope that the Annapolis Valley, as an important wine region in Canada, will follow on the heels of Okanogan and Niagara,” looking to grow from current seven vineyards to 20 vineyards by 2020.

Winery Association of Nova Scotia

A non-profit organization promoting and growing the wine industry in Nova Scotia, the Winery Association has met with Acadia to partner within the wine industry.
“From our meetings with wineries, they are encountering problems as simple as help with exporting their products,” said Huestis. “[Wineries] are encountering issues as simple as what type of wine label to put on their bottle. So we can expertise in that, for example in the business school, or more technical…a university setting such as Acadia offers a huge pool of expertise [to the industry].

“What’s really great about Acadia is that they reach out; they don’t want to reinvent the wheel. They look for people to work with,” said Janice Ruddock, Managing Director of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia. “[Acadia] wants to adapt technology for Nova Scotia.”