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Agriculture

Ellis Bird Farm… A place where nature and industry need each other.

Ellis Bird Farm

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  • Can industry and the environment thrive side by side?  There’s an amazing park just west of Red Deer where industry and nature have combined to create something precious… The Ellis Bird Farm.

    40 years ago, Union Carbide.. a huge multinational company was looking for a new home in Central Alberta.  Union Carbide wanted to set up an ethylene glycol plant along the Red Deer River, right smack in the middle of some of the best agricultural land in the country.

    The last person many would expect to deal with the company was a slight and aging farmer, a bird lover named Charlie Ellis.   In the years after their parents died, Charlie and his sister Winnie stayed on the Ellis farm and cultivated their passion for nature.  Charlie started innocently enough with a few birdhouses, and a strong urge to protect native birds… tree swallows, chickadees, purple martins, flickers, and especially Mountain Bluebirds.  The birds flocked in record numbers to Winnie’s orchards and flower gardens as well as Charlie’s growing number of birdhouses stretching acre after acre.   When an agent of Union Carbide came for a visit.. to everyone’s surprise, Charlie proposed a deal.  If the company was willing to take care of his birds, if they’d promise to keep up what Charlie had built up… well then Charlie would sell his land to the company.   That was the beginning of Ellis Bird Farm.

    Sponsored by DOW Chemical Canada and Ellis Bird Farm, Todayville is proud to present a series of features on the history of Central Alberta’s incredible prairie oasis and nature preserve… The Ellis Bird Farm.  In this video we hear from Jean-Yves Vanier of Dow Canada.

     


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    Agriculture

    Survey suggests shoppers approve of self-checkout lanes at the grocery store

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  • TORONTO — A new survey suggests most grocery shoppers spend 32 minutes per visit and approve of those automated self-checkout lanes.

    The study out of Halifax’s Dalhousie University underscores that the “worst part” of shopping for many consumers is waiting for a cashier, says lead investigator and professor Sylvain Charlebois, who predicted even more grocery technology is on the horizon.

    The management professor says he was surprised shoppers spent such little time per visit and shopped only 1.29 times a week, noting that’s less time and less frequent than similar studies on U.S. shoppers.

    At the same time, it seems self-checkouts are becoming increasingly popular, with 25.1 per cent of shoppers “strongly agreeing” and 29.6 per cent “somewhat agreeing” that they are a good idea. Another 20.3 per cent were indifferent.

    The Grocery Experience National Survey Report took place over three days in October 2018, and surveyed a controlled sample of 1,053 people online in both English and French. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

    Charlebois said the study encompassed stores that dedicate the majority of their footprint to food, including chain supermarkets, small independents, butchers and bakeries. The findings were set to be released Tuesday.

    He said shoppers seem to like variety, with the average Canadian noting they regularly visit at least two different stores.

    “It’s certainly good news for competition, for independents (and) small stores. I suspect that Canadians are curious, they want to go to a place where they can find lots of different products,” he said, adding that the survey did not ask about the types of store most frequented.

    Consumers also said they want more human interaction, which seemed to run counter to an apparent affinity for self-checkout. But it could just come down to the type of staff interaction they want, said Charlebois.

    “The end of their experience, which is probably the worst part of grocery shopping — paying for your food, waiting in line, reading the first page of the National Enquirer — those are things people just don’t want to do,” said Charlebois, whose study found 11.1 per cent of respondents always use self-checkout, and 54.9 per cent occasionally use self-checkout.

    “But when there is a situation where there’s some confusion, or consumers are a little bit lost, they want that human interaction. That’s why that assistance factor seems to be quite high.”

    Still, he notes increasing automation runs the risk of pushing consumers out of the store in favour of online shopping.

    “There’s a bit of a balance there. As a grocer you want to humanize the experience because that’s something you can’t replicate online,” he said. “And the other thing you cannot replicate online, which is actually making grocers lose sleep at night, is impulse buying.”

    About half of the respondents, 49.4 per cent, said they had never bought groceries online and were not planning to, while another 34.3 per cent said they were considering it.

    Canada’s first self-checkout lane appeared in 2000, when the technology was somewhat cumbersome, said Charlebois.

    “It’s not as bad as it used to be but there’s more work that needs to be done. I do see the day where people will be able to walk out of the grocery store without seeing someone, (without) paying anyone, basically. It would actually be withdrawn from their bank account automatically, like Amazon Go.”

    The study also suggests some urban/rural divides.

    City dwellers appear more likely to choose a store based on its ownership, while rural dwellers seem to prioritize price.

    And while just five per cent of the total sample said they currently subscribe to a meal kit service or are considering a subscription, that number rose to 60 per cent among urbanites.

    Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


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    Agriculture

    One month after legalization, illicit cannabis shops doing brisk business

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  • TORONTO — The three surveillance cameras and the steady flow of people in and out of the small, nondescript grey building are the only hint of the brisk business this downtown Toronto cannabis dispensary does behind closed doors.

    Once inside, two men behind a white desk under a vintage chandelier ask patrons to provide government identification and fill out a membership form. Then, customers are allowed to enter another room through a steel door, where an array of pot products are on display in a glass case.

    When asked what has changed since Canada legalized on Oct. 17, one staffer said: “We’re just busier.”

    Among the many shoppers on Thursday, a fourth-year university student said he preferred to buy from this dispensary to avoid the delivery problems that bedevil the provincial cannabis store. Also, he didn’t want the transaction to appear in his banking records.

    “It’s just too much of a hassle… it’s all about convenience for me,” he said.

    It’s been nearly a month since recreational pot was legalized across Canada, and despite raids by local police departments and government warnings to illegal pot shop operators to shutter their doors or face consequences, the black market continues on.

    Product shortages, delivery delays and other problems plaguing the roll-out have not helped, said Martin Landry, an analyst with GMP Securities.

    “It hasn’t been perfect… And probably as a result the shift away from the black market has not happened as fast as most expected. But I think that’s short term.”

    Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use on Oct. 17 with the elimination of the black market as one of the Liberal government’s main goals.

    There was little expectation that it would disappear quickly, as the illicit market has survived in U.S. states like Colorado and Oregon years after legalizing recreational pot.

    Statistics Canada estimates that during the fourth-quarter of this year there will be 5.4 million people wanting to purchase legal cannabis and 1.7 million continuing to buy illicit pot across Canada. Spending on pot during that period may range from $816 million to $1.1 billion while purchases of illegal cannabis may range from $254 million to $317 million, the agency estimates.

    But getting users to switch from illegal sources hinges, in part, on whether the legal offering is a competitive one.

    Meanwhile, in addition to limited amounts of legal pot products, cannabis-infused edibles are prohibited from sale until 2019.

    In Ontario, where privately run brick-and-mortar cannabis stores won’t be ready until next April, and British Columbia, which has just one government-run pot store, illicit shops continue to draw in clientele.

    The Weeds Glass and Gifts stores in Vancouver are “hyper busy right now,” said its owner Don Briere.

    His chain of stores in Vancouver are benefiting from the closures of other illicit dispensaries but also because B.C.’s lone legal store is located more than 350 kilometres away in Kamloops, B.C.

    “How are you going to service five million people in British Columbia with one store that is nowhere near the population centre?” Briere said in an interview.

    Briere shut down nine of his shops across the country but is servicing clients online and keeping his four Vancouver shops open while awaiting the outcome of ongoing litigation. Other dispensaries have also decided to keep their doors open while waiting for their license applications to be processed.

    Still, the stiffer penalties under the Cannabis act As of Oct. 17, which include a first offence fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of as much as six months, coupled with the potential to be blacklisted from pursuing legal retail options have prompted several to shut down.

    For example, the Green Room Society Dispensary on Spadina Avenue in Toronto has white paper covering up the glass windows and door. In the window, written on the paper in black marker it says: “Come say high on April 1st.”

    The Ontario government warned in the days before legalization that black market operators must shut down or risk being barred from ever obtaining a legal retail license under the province’s private system.

    Landlords in Ontario also face hefty fines for allowing illicit dispensaries to operate on their properties, putting further pressure on owners to close up shop, said Matt Maurer, a partner at Torkin Manes and vice-chair of the firm’s cannabis law group.

    Others across the country have been forcibly compelled by law enforcement to shut their operations down.

    In Port Alberni, B.C., the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided two pot shops on legalization day for not having provincial licenses. A day later, police and inspectors from Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. raided a dispensary in St. John’s.

    There were 92 illegal cannabis storefronts in Toronto on Oct. 16, prior to legalization, according to Bruce Hawkins, a spokesman for the city’s municipal licensing and standards department. That number has been whittled down to 21, as of Nov. 6, due to shutdowns of their own accord or by the city and police, he added.

    Maurer has been approached in the year leading up to legalization and afterwards by dispensary owners seeking a license to operate a legitimate cannabis business, as the risk of being an illicit operator is heightened, he said.

    Post-legalization, the provincial and territorial governments have a vested interest in shutting illegal pot shops down, he said.

    “Every sale at an illegal dispensary is another dollar not going to the provincial government,” Maurer said. “So why would they tolerate that any further?”

    — With files from Liam Casey

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press



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