Year in review: Acrimony, agribusiness, adaptation

AbacusBio launches Canadian operations in Edmonton (June 30, 2023)

The original story: In June, Taproot reported that New Zealand-based agriscience consultancy AbacusBio had chosen Edmonton as the headquarters for its Canadian operations because of the city's universities and graduates.

Then what? Abacus has two existing offices in Dunedin, New Zealand, and Edinburgh, Scotland. In August, Abacus announced it planned to open an Edmonton office and also discussed its North American client list, which includes Bayer | Crop Science, Semex, the Canadian Angus Association, American Angus Association, and the University of Alberta. In October, the newly created subsidiary AbacusBio Canada opened its office at Agri-Food Discovery Place with a four-person team. "We are excited to join this dynamic community and to support the development of agri-food science and technology in Canada," managing director John Crowley said of the new venture. Over the year, Abacus representatives hit the North American conference circuit including the Alberta Milk AGM in November. — Tim Querengesser

Mayor lauds anti-racism efforts amid acrimony (July 5, 2023)

The original story: In July, Taproot examined the tension caused when the city announced it was now creating a three-pillar anti-racism strategy, effectively dissolving the already created Anti-Racism Advisory Council (ARAC) against its will. The city strategy had three parts: to create an independent anti-racism body, to create a high-level anti-racism office, and to increase funding to groups dedicated to anti-racism work.

Then what? The city has not completed the first two parts of the strategy. Nearly two years after establishing the goals, there is also no timeline for when they will be completed. The city has appointed a panel to decide the structure and governance for its new independent anti-racism body. According to an update from early November, that panel has met every two weeks since February 2023. During the fall budget adjustment, council approved a $2.6-million funding package for the high-level office. The city has taken more action on the third pillar by offering $1.5 million in anti-racism grants. The city also introduced two new funding programs to address its Community Safety and Wellbeing Strategy, the first pillar of which is anti-racism. In August, Taproot reported that the Anti-Black Racism Action Plan recommended a permanent office, among 130 total recommendations. — Stephanie Swensrude

EPIC shifts focus from chefs to diners with new concept (July 25, 2023)

The original story: In July, Taproot reported that EPIC had shifted from its original food hall concept for its downtown location, brought in five "chefs in residence," and was planning its expansion to Whyte Avenue with a new food hall concept.

Then what? In September, Jennifer Keith of EPIC was a finalist for the Emerging Entrepreneur Award at the annual AWE Awards from Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Since Taproot's July story, EPIC has shifted its existing downtown location to be a private event space only. EPIC reported that it took this decision as part of preparations to open Station Park "in the coming months." As of writing, EPIC is still preparing that Whyte Avenue location, and on Nov. 18 it provided a sneak preview. EPIC's social media features details on a new meat-forward offering from Peter Keith that is "an upcoming dish at Station Park." — Tim Querengesser

A photo collage of six pictures: A person stands at a podium in front of signs that read "abacusbio"; a person stands at a podium before a screen that reads "Strong Cities Network"; a person stands in front of a wall adorned with plants and a sign that reads "EPIC"; two people stand at a transit station that is decorated with yellow balloons; two people stand in front of a sign that reads "Dragons' Den CBC GEM"; a building with a sign that reads "Mercer".

Clockwise from top left: John Crowley addressed media while launching AbacusBio Canada in Edmonton; Mayor Amarjeet Sohi addressed the Cities on the Frontline conference in Berlin; Maëlle Toews of EPIC said the business's new concept came from chef feedback; Auricle collected stories and experiences from transit users; Kid-Drop co-founders Julieta Miranda and Josh Kalhofer pitched on Dragons' Den in May; in October; the Mercer Warehouse started housing several Boyle Street Community Services programs.

Listening project to gauge sense of well-being at transit centres (July 28, 2023)

The original story: In July, Taproot reported on Auricle, a project that was set to learn how safe and well people felt at Clareview, Churchill, and Jasper Place transit centres by listening to their stories.

Then what? In November, Knowsy Fest shared data, anecdotes, and experiences at pop-up events at Churchill, Clareview, and Jasper Place stations. The pop-ups yielded interactive elements including Paula Kirman's song based on her local listening, a public dashboard of stories collected, and the story collection tool itself. Safety and well-being in transit remain top of mind in the city. In October, city administration reported transit safety had improved. In November, two violent attacks at Coliseum Station in November left one woman in life-threatening condition. Then in December, Coun. Tim Cartmell introduced a motion to direct administration to pilot turnstiles at two stations to see if they help safety. Stories people shared with Auricle resonate in this context. One person told Auricle that they noticed a group of young men intimidating a visibly Muslim woman at a transit station. "They were talking about her," the storyteller shared. The person then sat beside the woman. "And I said, 'I think we've met before,' and started a conversation with her, just to let her know that she had someone, to take her mind off of it, and for those guys to stop talking to her, and talking about her. And they did. And I was happy that that worked." — Tim Querengesser

Parent-assisting companies look to grow in Edmonton (Sept.7, 2023)

The original story: Child-transport company Kid-Drop Inc. planned its launch in Edmonton for the start of the school year while child-minding service Birdie Break geared up for growth. Both went through accelerators and want to make life easier for parents — especially moms.

Then what? Kid-Drop successfully launched in Edmonton and bookings are now available. In December, CEO Julieta Miranda delivered a keynote address during APEX Southeast Alberta, soon after pitching on Dragons' Den for $500,000 to use to build an app to automate her business and shrink costs. The Dragons declined to invest because they felt Kid-Drop's $5-million valuation was inaccurate. Still, Miranda posted thanks to her supporters. "Building an idea from the ground up can be a challenging journey, but with the support of the startup community, amazing resources, and an abundance of mentors, friends, and family, we have been able to continue to grow the KID-DROP dream!" Kid-Drop was a finalist at Startup TNT's Investment VIII in November. Elsewhere, Birdie Break co-founder Cressida Raffin stepped away in October. That same month, the company continued to expand its Birdie Nests, offering child-minding at a nurses' conference. — Colin Gallant

Boyle Street relocation to Work Nicer space seen as mutually beneficial (Oct. 20, 2023)

The original story: Boyle Street Community Services vacated its headquarters at the end of September, well before its new home was ready, saying it was not financially viable to continue leasing the old space from the Oilers Entertainment Group. It splintered services across Work Nicer Coworking at the Mercer Warehouse, Bissell Centre Downtown East, CO*LAB, and trailers outside its new King Thunderbird facility. Work Nicer paused its renovations to accommodate clients of the Indigenous cultural support programs.

Then what? Construction of Boyle Street's permanent operations hub, the King Thunderbird Centre (okimaw peyesew kamik in Cree), should be complete by the end of this year. On Oct. 31, the charity held a memorial for its 118 community members who died between June and October. While serious issues related to encampments built by unhoused people persist, a threatened comprehensive "sweep" is delayed until at least Jan. 11, thanks to an interim injunction. Boyle Street has continued to grow its services to clients by way of its new interdisciplinary model of care, launched in October, and Homemakers' campaign that began on Nov. 22, National Housing Day. — Colin Gallant

See more updates in our Jan. 4 file. Want to know what happened next on any other Taproot stories from 2023? Email your suggestion to