What if we told you that New Brunswick could revitalize its economy, retain young workers and help the environment to boot?

It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The bioeconomy can do all of those things and more. Some of those efforts are already happening right here, but there’s so much more that could be done if we had a focused effort around policy and programing.

Bioscience, or biotechnology as it’s sometimes known, uses living things to develop useful products and processes. Add in the business component and you have the bioeconomy, which is a rapidly growing sector across the world. Entrepreneurs are creating opportunities to ensure our food security, improve our health and create a cleaner environment.

What does this look like in real life? Think turning waste into biodiesel and using drones to maximize crop yield and reduce pesticide use. With 75 percent of New Brunswick’s land covered in forest and farmland, our province is ripe for this cutting-edge work to take place.

Some local companies have already started to dabble in the bioeconomy. Resson received $14 million in funding last year to pursue agricultural technology research, and LuminUltra Technologies is exporting microbiological measurement tools and test kits to more than 60 countries — just to name a few examples.

All of this funding creates demand for jobs and highly skilled workers to fill them. Companies in the bioeconomy are able to provide compensation packages that can entice new college graduates away from the bright lights and fast pace of a large city to the rural regions of New Brunswick.

These young workers benefit from a lower cost of living and can bring vital commerce to our region. This is exactly the model that cities and towns across the world have used to transform from withering communities to vibrant places that you see in magazine rankings of the best places to live.

Fredericton's Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

While the bioeconomy is creating new jobs in New Brunswick, it’s not abandoning our roots in the process. Bioscience is the perfect marriage of our traditional industries like forestry, farming, and fishing with the cutting-edge technology platforms that are helping to transform and innovate them.

Neither IT nor science can live in a vacuum, and investors are starting to see that the best bottom line comes when the two are married together.

Some of this funding could come from the government through programs like the Clean Growth Economy or our Atlantic Growth Strategy. Some could come from the U.S., where investments in clean tech and life science have outperformed those in IT several times over.

Either way, funding the bioeconomy doesn’t provide the adrenaline-like returns that IT start-ups do, but has proven to be much more stable in the long run. Communicating these differences is a challenge in moving the bioeconomy forward.

The key players in the bioscience community are gathering at the Atlantic Biorefinery Conference in Fredericton, June 7-9, to discuss the technologies and policies that will drive bioeconomic growth in the region.

With a focus on national and international perspectives, this conference is designed to illustrate the real opportunity in our back yard. Of particular interest is the keynote talk from Jussi Manninen of the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland. Finland and New Brunswick share many similarities when it comes to our resource-based economies. Finland is transitioning into a modern bioeconomy, and Manninen will discuss how their solution could serve as a model for New Brunswick.

New Brunswick has all of the building blocks necessary to grow the bioeconomy even more and attract world-class businesses to the area. We have the physical space and type of land needed for bioscience development, along with the research expertise to make it happen.

This area is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by investors and job seekers alike. The outlook is bright, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.


Meaghan Seagrave is the Executive Director of BioNB, the bioscience association in New Brunswick.