Seeing the Forest, Not Just the Trees

Entrepreneurs Seizing Economic Opportunity in Non-Timber Forest Products Jenn O'Donnell October 14, 2016

Canadian entrepreneurs are discovering the hidden value within our forests and turning them into natural products that treat anxiety, give us energy, and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. These “non-timber forest products,” or NTFPs, represent a lucrative and rapidly growing industry that is a perfect opportunity for New Brunswick entrepreneurs.

What are Non-Timber Forest Products?

Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are the goods and services provided by the forests other than conventional wood products (timber and pulp). They can be wild-harvested or grown as agroforestry crops. Beyond the well-known Christmas trees and wreaths and maple products, they include fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, resins, oils, herbs, and many value-added manufactured products such as medicines, herbal remedies and cosmetics. These products can be very high in value and are in demand globally. Estimates from across Canada indicate that the current value of NTFPs is easily $100 million annually and perhaps much more.

What this Industry Means for New Brunswick

With 6 million hectares of productive forest, the Province of New Brunswick is recognizing the opportunity for economic diversification. With high unemployment in rural areas, robust development of an NTFP sector could mean alternative employment within many small natural resource businesses.

As an example, the New Brunswick Growth Plan has identified blueberries and cannabis (both NTFPs) as two priority projects to achieve economic growth. More than just commodity crops, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to employ new technologies and business models to explore value-added aspects of their harvests. Wider margins and year-round production and research means hiring more people and exporting to new markets.

It is crucial that New Brunswick seizes the opportunity responsibly, starting with education. Currently hundreds of NTFP businesses and tens of thousands of private woodlot owners are looking to learn more about growing a sustainable venture.

Industry to Gather for Education and Networking in Moncton

“From Field and Forest 2016: Building Businesses from Non-Timber Forest Products” is an upcoming conference that will inform natural resource managers and rural entrepreneurs of the connections and insights they can use to build sustainable businesses from NTFPs. An organising committee consisting of the UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre and BioNB are hosting the conference in Moncton October 20th-21st.

The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with the Province of New Brunswick is providing financial support for the conference.

The conference will feature an all-star list of Canadian and U.S. speakers, including successful natural products entrepreneurs, research scientists, experts in marketing and sales, and representatives from government with expertise in land access, product quality, and funding support.

Featured Speakers from Outside the Region

Dr. Jim Chamberlain is a global expert on non-timber forest products management, production and valuation. He is a research scientist with the USDA Forest Service as a member of the Forestry Inventory and Analysis Program and recently was the NTFP advisor for the Forest Service in the Ukraine. He leads research to quantify the ecological and economic effects of NTFP harvesting, and is spearheading a national assessment of NTFPs and climate change.

Gerard Le Gal is the owner and founder of Gourmet Sauvage, a business dedicated to the harvesting, processing and sale of wild foods and eco-tourism. He is at the centre of the growing NTFP sector in Quebec, and will be bringing his decades of experience to From Field and Forest.

Wanda Wolf operates Lonewolf Plant and Herb Farm in Saskatchewan, and has quickly developed a reputation as a worldwide distributor of botanicals. She works with over 300 suppliers of medicinal herbs worldwide, and will be offering her marketing and brokering expertise at From Field and Forest.

Dr. Jon Arnason of the University of Ottawa heads up a laboratory that has undertaken studies exploring the safety and efficacy of Cree and Mayan traditional medicines. His team recently developed a product that treats anxiety in pets. This product is now on the market, and research is underway to use the extract to treat PTSD in humans.

Quotes

From Field and Forest represents a valuable networking opportunity for New Brunswick entrepreneurs and land owners. “We have some serious heavy hitters joining us at the conference,” says Dr. Ron Smith, research scientist at the UNB Wood Science and Technology, and master of ceremonies at From Field and Forest 2016. “We’re excited to hear the lessons these speakers may have to help develop the industry here at home. They have done it before and done it well, now it’s our turn to use our strengths to our advantage.”

“New Brunswick’s economy is closely tied to our natural resources, with 80% of our land mass covered in a rich forest tapestry,” said Meaghan Seagrave, Executive Director at BioNB, a partner of the conference. “We have the industry and technology assets to transform this resource into high value products bound for international markets. The UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre is a powerful research asset for the non-timber forest products industry and the province, and this conference is a fresh step toward fostering the growth of the region’s non-timber forest products sector.”

Registration is open to the public, with free access for media. All information on the conference can be found at FromFieldandForest.com or by calling organiser Fred Nott at 506-451-6987

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