Located along the North Channel of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Mississaugi River is the burgeoning Mississauga First Nation. Over the past five years, the community has been working on the development of a land-based, recirculating aquaculture project that will create meaningful, long-term employment for community members, while bringing economic rejuvenation to the community.
The community is projected to start construction of the facility in the early summer of 2022. Operations would then be set to begin in the second quarter of 2023.
Once completed, the freshwater aquaculture facility will produce hundreds of tonnes of rainbow trout annually.
“Following a lengthy but educational development process, our community’s project is on the cusp of bringing great benefits to us all,” said Mississauga First Nation Chief Bob Chiblow. “We are all looking forward to the day we cut the ribbon and begin operations.,” he added.
Community leadership started talks on the project in 2016. Careful deliberation went into the planning of the project, including location, environmental assessments and proximity to the community. With the support of a grant from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) in 2017, a 16-acre site was carved out within the community’s land base. Local Indigenous businesses and contractors were tapped to clear the area, including the necessary removal of trees and the excavation of stumps and roots.
With this phase completed, additional environmental assessments were conducted and water testing was performed. Once approvals were given by technicians and engineers, water wells were drilled in strategic locations to tap aquifers for operations. The community wanted to be sure that no surface waterways in the vicinity were affected by the facility’s operations. Discharged water from operations will be filtered before entering a holding pond and eventually returning to the water table.
The COVID-19 global pandemic caused many setbacks to the community’s development timeline. Operations were initially targeted to start in 2021. Following months of delays and logistical issues, the project is now shovel-ready and projected to begin construction following this year’s spring thaw. The construction phase will create employment for several community members.
Community Economic Development Officer, Jon Cada, believes that his community is ready for the challenges ahead: “We are very happy to finally be moving towards to the construction phase of our project. Everyone is eager to get started.”
The freshwater aquaculture facility will include buildings and raceways. Each raceway will be 345 ft in a U-shaped design. These raceways will be filled with recirculated, filtered and temperature-controlled water that is pumped in from the aquifers. The raceways will be divided into sections that will each contain rainbow trout at different life-cycle stages.
The facility has been designed to receive eyed eggs, and once the eggs hatch, the fish will continue to be in the facility through their life cycle, which includes fry, fingerlings and grow out up until harvest. At each stage of their growth, the water quality and temperature will be carefully controlled. The fish are fed with the necessary nutrients and strong bio-security practices will be exercised to ensure the well-being of the stock and facility. It is projected to take 15 to 18 months for the fish to reach harvesting size. The business forecasts annual production of 550 tonnes of rainbow trout.
This will place it among the leaders in the field in the short term.
Community members from Mississauga First Nation will be taking a three-semester course at Fleming College on how to manage and operate an aquaculture facility. As operations ramp up in 2023, the operations will add to the production crew with maximum production expected towards the end of 2024. Canadian Aquaculture Systems will provide on-site training to management and employees.
The vision and determination of the community have led to the creation of a sustainable economic development project that will be fully owned and operated by its community members for generations to come. Mississauga First Nation contributed significantly to the project costs with support from the community. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) supports First Nations in achieving their business goals. DFO’s Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (NICFI), Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) provided funding for this project. Other anticipated partners include the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp (NOHFC), FedNor, and the Bank of Montreal (BMO).
Chief Chiblow also highlighted the support of Waubetek: “Our project would not have been possible without the support of our funding partners. I also want to personally acknowledge the endless support and business knowledge provided by the staff of the Waubetek Business Development Corporation who have helped us with the realization of this project.”