Kahnawake is one step closer to obtaining its own aquaponics farm.
During last week’s meeting of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), lead of the environment portfolio and MCK chief Cody Diabo was granted $60,000 from the MCK in order to move forward with funding submissions, market and sales planning, along with regulatory and technical studies.
The aquaponics farm project also received support from the Mohawk Council Executive Directive (MCED) to apply for funding with the Aboriginal Initiatives Fund (AFI). Rice is looking to obtain a 50 percent capital subsidy for equipment and also have AIF cover 50 percent of the expenses.
“Essentially, the MCK will cover the project and then get reimbursed $30,000 from AIF,” said Diabo.
The MCED support came as Diabo was able to present the feasibility of the project. He explained that the aquaponics farm, even on a more conservative level, has proven itself to be highly promising.
“I’m hoping that we can start this project sooner rather than later,” said Diabo. “It’s checking off everything: employment, revenue, social development and accessibility. There was about 80 percent of the community that was supportive right off the bat.”
Last June, the MCK signed a contract with Écosystèmes Alimentaires Urbains (ÉAU), a company based in Montreal, specializing in aquaponics. The idea was to improve food stability throughout the community. The main goal, as Diabo explained, is to ensure that Kahnawa’kehró:non have access to healthier food, at lower prices.
“Food pricing is only going to go up,” said Diabo. “It’s cheaper to go buy a box of cookies than strawberries.”
While aquaponic farms are quite popular in warmer countries to grow fruits and vegetables, Quebec is still in the amateur stages when it comes to this technology. According to ÉAU, aquaponics combines aquaculture – fish farming – with hydroponics – the ability to produce plants in a water environment. With this project, Diabo, who’s had this initiative in mind since he was elected, wants Kahnawake to become a leader in food sovereignty.
“It’s definitely going to be something unique in Quebec and with First Nations communities,” he said, adding that the installations would be completely indoors.
Diabo’s vision goes beyond the farm. He envisions a place, like a market, where people could go directly to buy fresh produce.
“I think the enthusiasm is only going to grow,” said Diabo. “I had a lot of people reaching out to me, talking about wanting to be part of it.”
Diabo explained that there is a diversity of interests from the community, including interest in aquaculture, harvesting and even just general curiosity. If everything goes according to plan, without providing any specific dates, Diabo said that by this time next year Kahnawake could potentially have its first harvest from the aquaponics farm.