Green Hectares Fosters Dynamic Rural Economies

greenhectares.gifIn the largely rural Canadian province of Alberta, a group of young farmers have formed a nonprofit called Green Hectares in 2008. Its mission is to foster dynamic rural economies while bringing sustainability to agriculture. It takes existing and new community-based programs promoting entrepreneurship and smarter farming and shares them over a growing online community. To keep that community growing, Green Hectares operates a mobile computer lab and brings technology, entrepreneurship and agricultural training events to communities throughout the province.

One of its founders, Lee Townsend, is a remarkable role model. The son of a beekeeper, Lee has dramatically expanded the business of his family’s TPLR Honey Farms in central Alberta. He built his own WiFi network reaching every corner of the farm and uses handheld devices to collect data on the condition of his hives, which feeds a beekeeping management system that maximizes the health and output of the hives. His restless spirit led him to make connections with Japanese food importers, and a trip to Japan eventually produced a deal through which he brokers honey from across Canada to Asian markets. Japanese consumers are some of the most particular in the world when it comes to the purity and quality of food, and Townsend’s ability to satisfy his Japanese partners is a rich tribute to his business and technology skills.

Green Hectares as an organization, and Townsend as an entrepreneur, are both attacking the challenge of scale. Using ICT, the nonprofit is aggregating the knowledge and skills of its subscribers, expanding those skills and energizing the more entrepreneurial among them through regular structured contact. Townsend has developed the contacts and done the deals needed to draw high-quality honey supplies from a broad region and funnel them to buyers on the far side of the planet. Those are moves that would be unimaginable without the inexpensive connecting power of information and communications technology.

Copyright 2013 Intelligent Community Forum

Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist for the Intelligent Community Forum.

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