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New $3.2 Million Research Lab to be Constructed in Sussex

Watch  video of Greg Adams talking about the project. 

SUSSEX, NB:  Today federal, provincial, and J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) officials announced a new $3.2 million state-of-the-art laboratory in Sussex.  The facility will be operated by Maritime Innovation Limited, a division of JDI.  Building of the 7200-square-foot facility will begin in late May and will generate 36 direct and indirect construction jobs.  Once completed, the new laboratory will create two new jobs over the next two years (in addition to the current three) and at least five additional jobs over the next four to five years.  The new facility is part of a more than $5 million investment initiated in 2011 to commercialize new tree improvement techniques.  Included in this total is a direct investment of $2.1 million by the company.
“Over the past 20 years, J.D. Irving, Limited has invested over $20 million in forest research and tree improvement.  This new state-of-the-art research facility will allow us to concentrate our efforts in one centre of excellence, increasing our research capability in terms of building space and technological capacity,” said Jim Irving, Co-Chief Executive Officer of J.D. Irving, Limited.  “We look forward to this facility contributing to other areas of scientific discovery in the years ahead.

J.D. Irving, Limited invests in New Forest Research Lab in Sussex

“We appreciate the government support that has helped bring us to the company’s investment in this new facility,” Irving continued.  “Natural Resources Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Province of New Brunswick are valued partners in the commercialization of ground-breaking science.  The 20-year effort by Dr. David Miller of Carleton University is one example.  Dr. Miller’s research and discovery has resulted in patents in North America, Europe, and Australia and has the potential to reduce pesticide use over time with a natural treatment that builds tree tolerance against spruce budworm,” Irving said.

Through the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program, Natural Resources Canada is investing $982,000 to enable the construction of a state-of-the-art facility.  The project is the first large-scale advanced seedling plant in Canada that incorporates both the somatic embryogenesis process and Irving’s patented Endophyte-Enhanced Seedling Technology that enhances the seedlings’ natural tolerance of insect and fungal pests.   Four million seedlings a year will be produced at the new Sussex facility. 

In addition to Natural Resources Canada’s investment, the project is also supported by a $1.4 million repayable loan under the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Program. 

“Today’s announcement demonstrates our government’s commitment to investing in science and helping to bring new ideas from the laboratory to the market. This project supports our goal of creating jobs, growth and prosperity in the forest industry in New Brunswick and across the country,” said the Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State for ACOA.

The Government of New Brunswick has contributed $500,000 to the project.

“Investing in innovative technology is an important part of our government’s plan to responsibly develop our natural resources and create jobs,” said Premier David Alward.  “This seedling technology project at J.D. Irving Limited in Sussex will help New Brunswick’s forestry industry become more competitive and sustain more jobs in our communities.”  

Two specific projects will be the immediate focus of Maritime Innovation Limited:

The new lab will produce quality seedlings by the plant reproduction method called ‘somatic embryogenesis’.  The seedlings come from high-value varieties of spruce and pine “parents” sourced from forests across the region.  For the past 20 years, JDI has been working with Natural Resources Canada on this project. “We appreciate the pioneering work of Dr. Yill Sung Park who led this important research from the Canadian Forest Service in New Brunswick,” said Greg Adams, JDI’s Director of Forest Research and Development.

“Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is a leading-edge biotechnology developed by the Canadian Forest Service,” said Dr. Park.  This tree propagation technology enables rapid development of high-value tree varieties that integrate growth, quality, and disease and insect resistance through exploitation of natural variability. This application of SE technology is a fine example of a long-standing research collaboration and technology transfer between Natural Resources Canada and J.D. Irving, Limited.”

Secondly, the lab will also produce specific naturally occurring fungi (endophytes) which live inside trees across our region.  The fungi produce chemical compounds which improve the host tree’s tolerance of attack by insect species such as the spruce budworm and diseases like white pine blister rust. The fungi are produced in large controlled vessels and the cultures are sprayed on seedlings in greenhouses to inoculate them. These specific fungi have been demonstrated to stay with the tree as it grows to maturity. 

This world-first approach to improving trees’ natural pest tolerance has been developed collaboratively with Dr. David Miller at Carleton University. It has resulted in five patents to date and over 10 research papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.  

Dr. David Miller, Carleton University
Developing Spruce Budworm Resistance

“Today is special for two reasons,” said Dr. David Miller. “First, this demonstrates an important enhancement to the seedlings that emerge from nurseries in eastern Canada- the resulting stands will be more tolerant to spruce budworm. Secondly, as a public scientist, this represents a great example of getting research out of the lab to benefit the economy. Combining the skills of biological chemistry at the university, and seedling production technologies and tree genetics at JD Irving, a hidden aspect of life in the forest has been uncovered. I believe that this understanding will benefit future generations of Canadians who want a sustainable, well-managed forest industry.”

JDI has been part of the Town of Sussex for over 40 years and the lab is good news.  “Forestry and forest products are key drivers of our local economy,” said Mayor Marc Thorne.  “JDI operations – the sawmill, woodlands and contractors – and the indirect jobs they generate account for almost 30% of employment in our community and almost $70 million in wages (direct and indirect).  Today’s news is all about securing the future and it sends a very positive signal.  We are delighted to welcome Maritime Innovation Limited - a modern research lab that puts Sussex at the centre of new discoveries and the jobs they create.”