Dr. Aisling Brady tests water quality adjacent to a salmon farming site as part of one of CARTI's community partnerships.

CARTI brings community together to solve problems

Invites the public to pitch ideas to which they could add resources

Only a few short years ago, North Island College (NIC) created an entity called the Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) to help facilitate more integration between the school and the region, and they’ve been busy accomplishing things ever since.

Still, it doesn’t seem like people know about them or what they do.

“It’s one way for the college to engage in community,” according to Naomi Tabata, Manager of the Centre. “We try to create projects between community and the college to solve problems within the community. We have all these resources, and we have amazing people, so let’s be in the community and see how we can build together.”

According to Tabata, one of the impediments to this integration is that there seems to be a misconception about NIC being simply a “trades school,” so people don’t necessarily think of the institution when they’re addressing issues within their organization or tackling problems within the community.

“Not only do we have a full range of programming here, but we also have access to all the faculty at all our campuses,” Tabata says, who could add expertise to ideas and problems that others may have. They just need to know what these problems are so they can figure out how to best address them.

That’s where Tabata comes in. Her role is to bring people together within the region to try to tackle some of these issues.

Naomi Tabata“We started with some really great successes around aquaculture,” she says, including the partnering of CARTI and NIC with various aquaculture companies and the National Science and Education Research Council (NSERC) to address some monitoring issues at aquaculture facilities. They used this partnership to develop new monitoring techniques with remote vehicles and video observation at aquaculture deep-sea sites that are unaccessible to divers.

“That was a two year project and it was really exciting,” Tabata says. “Lots of great learning came out of that – new information that hasn’t been found before to address an issue that’s found across the country. Our colleagues in Newfoundland are very interested in what we’re learning there, for example.”

It’s not only a great way to increase knowledge within a sector, Tabata says, but it’s also an economic driver within the region itself when it’s done properly.

“That project was $200,000 in federal dollars that wouldn’t have been here otherwise – and it’s all being spent locally,” she said, adding that they have even larger projects on the go which are bringing the same types of benefit, such as a $1-million research program examining and addressing some of the aquaculture sector’s waste issues.

Another major initiative they’re working on right now is examining ways to get locally-produced food integrated into large, governmentally funded institutions such as hospitals, schools, seniors’ homes and military bases.

Tabata says they are also constantly involved in multiple smaller projects, such as their recent partnership with Greenways Land Trust, the City of Campbell River and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which implemented remote monitoring of wildlife in the Beaver Lodge Trail System.

“We want to invite the community to come tell us about their ideas,” Tabata says. “We want them to come talk to us, let us know what their challenges are, and tell us how we might work together and help them to build something exciting for Campbell River. We love it when industry or business or community comes to us with some challenge they’re having and we try to work out a way to help by bringing people together.”

One advantage to working with CARTI to develop these types of community plans or business ideas is the centre’s access to funding pools that most people would not have access to otherwise, according to Tabata.

Another benefit is that an idea doesn’t have to be fully built up and fleshed out for them to start working on it, as it would be if you were approaching a bank for a business loan, for example.

“They could come to me with an idea,” Tabata says. “That’s fine. We’re going to sit and massage that idea and figure out the pieces that we need in order to make that happen. Who are the players that need to be at the table? We don’t want to do anything in isolation, so if there are other people in the community who might have an interest in achieving this same outcome, we want to get those people or organizations involved, as well.”

Anyone who may have ideas for community projects that CARTI could help make a reality are encouraged to contact Tabata at naomi.tabata@nic.bc.ca or at 1-800-715-0914 extension 7719.