Dr. Stephen Cross will head up aquaculture reasearch at the Campbell River campus.

College gets big research bucks

North Island College's Campbell RIver campus will be home to the new aquaculture researcher

North Island College will be at the forefront of research into sustainable aquaculture thanks to a $1 million grant.

“This is a game-changer – a real coup for a small college,” said college president Jan Lindsay.

The grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council will fund an Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Sustainable Aquaculture. This funding is intended to support applied research leaders and the development of business-focused applied research programs at colleges throughout Canada.

Dr. Stephen Cross, an internationally acclaimed researcher, will head up the studies and fact-finding at the Campbell River campus for the next five years.

At last Thursday’s announcement and reception, Dr. Cross said it’s an “incredible agreement,” supported by the national council which he termed “the Holy Grail of research grants.”

The location of the research chair also makes sense because Campbell River is the business hub for finfish aquaculture on the West Coast. The research  will be supported by Marine Harvest Canada, Creative Salmon, Mainstream Canada, Grieg BC Seafood and the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

“We’re pleased to see North Island College build research capacity. You have our full support,” said Mary Ellen Walling, executive director of the salmon farmers association.

The goal is to do research that creates sustainable aquaculture, improves existing practices, and helps innovate the industry.

Lindsay is hopeful the grant is “just the beginning” for the college as it pursues more research opportunities, and she thanked industry, local municipalities and First Nations which all supported the college’s funding application.

“Truly, it was huge team effort to pull off a project of this magnitude,” she said.

Lindsay also told the story of how the college was actually awarded the grant last year. The cheque was already in bank when the first researcher tabbed to fill the chair position was unable to make the commitment to North Island College.

With much reluctance, the money was returned to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. However, said Lindsay, the council fully encouraged the college to reapply for the coveted grant and this time it came through when Dr. Cross committed to the program.

“This is a new program for colleges,” explained Lindsay, who said the grants are typically awarded to universities. “Just recently, colleges were given a share of the pie – this is a very huge project for the college.”

Fast Facts

  • Dr. Cross specializes in the design, engineering and testing of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems.
  • The research program will invest in environmental monitoring programs to promote sustainable farming. It will examine innovative monitoring of environmental conditions, assess alternative farming site restoration methods, and develop unique educational tools to increase opportunities for training and awareness.
  • North Island College’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) will administer the five-year grant. CARTI is located in Campbell River, the primary location for finfish aquaculture operations in BC.
  • The program’s mandate is to build connections with industry and community partners while extending opportunities for student learning and future employment.