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Dryden indoor farmers win national pitch competition

AgriTech North takes home $100,000 as inaugural Bears’ Lair winner
AgriTech North, operated by Benjamin Feagin (right) and Fabian Prince Velez, have won $100,000 after winning the inaugural season of Bears' Lair, a national Indigenous business pitch competition.

A Dryden-based indoor farming operation is taking home $100,000 as the inaugural winner of the Bears’ Lair Indigenous business pitch competition.

AgriTech North, led by Benjamin Feagin and Fabian Prince Velez, grows a variety of lettuces, herbs and fruits at the warehouse-type facility, which is distributed to communities and First Nations across northwestern Ontario.

The company, which launched earlier this year, competed against 18 other Indigenous companies from across Canada for the prize money.

Over a period of six sessions, which were broadcast Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the shortlist was narrowed down to six semifinalists, and four advanced to the finale, which aired on Nov. 6.

“Fabian and I are ecstatic to be awarded the honour of winning the inaugural season of Bear’s Lair!” Feagin shared on social media after their win.

“There are so many people who contributed to this success. We couldn’t have come this far without the intimate mentorship, support, and guidance of those around us, including the other participants.”

AgriTech North has garnered several accolades for its model of farming.

Earlier this month, the company won the Innovative Project of the Year award from the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, and this summer, Feagin was named an Emerging Indigeous Entrepreneur through the RBC Rock My Business program.

With the $10,000 earned from the latter program, the company planned to roll out a new e-commerce program that would streamline the ordering process for customers.

Ultimately, the company's goal is to help reduce the cost of fresh produce being shipped to remote Indigenous communities, making the consumption of fresh foods more affordable for residents.