The Centre de recherche et développement technologique agricole de l'Outaouais (CREDÉTAO) and the Municipality of Ripon, in the RMC of Papineau, announced monday the signing of a two-year agreement for the lease of 68 acres of fallow land and forest located on the site of the Black Mountains Park, in an agricultural zone. It is on these vast lands that the Petite Nation Agroforestry Platform will take shape.
The new incubator will be integrated into CREDÉTAO's regional network of complementary agri-food platforms in the Outaouais region, which already includes the Plateforme agricole de L'Ange-Gardien, which has been in operation for 12 years. Last June, CREDÉTAO announced that land bordering the Maniwaki airport in Messines, in Haute-Gatineau, will be transformed into a "berry development hub" starting in 2022. An animal husbandry platform should also be created in the RMC Pontiac in the future.
If the L'Ange-Gardien model allows organic vegetable start-ups to rent a parcel of land and equipment and then try to find a farm property in the region - 18 companies have launched their farms thanks to the incubator as of today -, the agroforestry platform based in Ripon will offer a somewhat different formula, says Alexandre Clément, project manager at CREDÉTAO.
"In addition to business start-ups, there will be training for entrepreneurs in the region so that they can diversify their activities. We will also have workshops for the general public, which will allow them to take advantage of the agrotourism potential that the Black Mountains Park offers," he said.
The first "incubated" businesses in 2022
The Petite Nation Agroforestry Platform will focus on three areas : the growing and wild gathering of mushrooms and edible and medicinal plants, maple syrup production and the garden forest.
The first development work on the site, via Montpellier Road, is planned for this fall. They will allow the myciculture to start next spring, according to Mr. Clément. An artesian well will be dug at the entrance to the site, which will also be connected to the electrical network in the coming weeks. Excavation work will also be done this fall for the cultivation of mushrooms, which will be done through forest greenhouses and maritime containers. A first cohort of "incubates" is expected to enter the facility in 2022.
"With the myciculture project, we want to provide the necessary infrastructure for the production of specialty mushrooms. We are talking about oyster mushrooms, shiitake, hydnes, stropharia and agarics. Recently, this is something that is growing in Quebec and we want to participate in this development. There is also the idea of wild picking. This is another niche that can be used as an economic activity for the incubates.
- Alexandre Clément, project manager for CREDÉTAO
Nut and fruit tree cultivation and maple syrup production
The forest-garden component is inspired by the concept of a nourishing forest, which includes nut and fruit trees. "The idea is to have all stages of production. The nursery, which is the base of the tree, will allow annual activities for the incubated trees. There is a strong demand in Quebec among nurseries (for this type of tree), but there are few. This would be an interesting area to exploit," says Mr. Clément.
Partnerships with the Institut des sciences de la forêt tempérée of the Université du Québec en Outaouais are planned for this component, which will focus on research into "innovative crops.
At the maple syrup level, the Platform will enable maple syrup producers to anticipate the logistical and financial obstacles they may face when operating a small maple grove. This aspect of the incubator will also serve to foster linkages between maple syrup producers and the next generation of maple syrup producers.
"The idea is to look at the pitfalls that can arise for sugar bush owners who don't necessarily have large facilities. We will also try to evaluate the interest for a collective boiling center in the Petite-Nation", indicates the project manager at CREDÉTAO.
The lease between Ripon and the CREDÉTAO is for two years, but the goal is to extend the agreement on a long-term basis once the trial period is over, he was assured Monday.