The Pulse: Dec. 1, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 5°C: Overcast. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light in the morning. Temperature falling to plus 1 in the afternoon. (forecast)
  • 238: Alberta reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths on Nov. 30. (details)
  • 8pm: The Oilers (15-5-0) will host the Penguins (10-7-5) at Rogers Place. (details)

A cluster of thick, green brussels sprouts dusted with snow

Winter CSA offers local vegetables, bolsters sustainability of Prairie Gardens

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Regional Roundup

While many producers have harvested the majority of their crops and are preparing to look ahead to the next growing season, Bon Accord's Prairie Gardens will soon be boxing up fresh and stored vegetables as part of its winter CSA program.

CSA, or community-supported agriculture, involves buying a share of the harvest at the beginning of the season to spread the risk (and bounty) between farmers and consumers. Summer CSA programs are popular, while winter farm shares are less common.

"We're great ones for pushing boundaries," owner and horticulturalist Tam Andersen told Taproot. And there's no shortage of produce to fulfill the shares, if farms get creative.

Brussels sprouts and savoy cabbage stay buried underneath the snow until its time to shovel off the insulating layer and harvest them. Produce like winter kale can also be picked from underneath the frosty ground until the snow disappears.

Plus, winter greens like kale and swiss chard, as well as mustards and herbs, will grow in the Prairie Gardens greenhouse. Winter squash and blue culinary pumpkins that were harvested earlier in the season will also be stored there for delivery throughout the winter months.

Operating year-round allows Prairie Gardens to be more financially sustainable as a small family farm, despite the short growing season.

"We also want to give people that option of supporting and creating a local foodshed and buying naturally grown vegetables straight from the farmer through the whole season. (The hope is) that it becomes part of their regular buying habits and part of their family traditions," Andersen said.

It's a goal shared by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board, whose task force recently endorsed the final version of a plan to grow the region's agriculture and food production sectors, while conserving local farmland.

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By Mack Male and Madeleine Stout

  • A planned three-year full closure of Hawrelak Park will begin in spring 2023 for major utility and infrastructure upgrades. Coun. Michael Janz, however, wants to investigate options to accelerate or phase the rehabilitation project to reduce the disruption. "It's our jewel of the river valley and it is our Central Park," he said. Edmonton Heritage Festival executive director Jim Gibbon is also calling on the city to undertake the project in stages, but a City of Edmonton spokesperson told Postmedia that "there is not a phased scenario that can be implemented in a way that would allow major festivals to continue to operate at their normal scale and capacity."
  • Edmonton Public School Board trustees have approved a day off of school for National Indigenous Peoples Day in the 2022-2023 school year, moving a proposed professional development day to June 21, 2023 to accommodate the holiday. The board indicated it would investigate accommodating more religious and cultural holidays in the future. "I have no doubt that this board will bring that forward and we will advocate strongly because our community has told us that this is what matters," said chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks.
  • Meals on Wheels has seen a 98% increase in demand in the past year. The Edmonton charity now serves over 2,000 clients but has struggled to meet fundraising goals due to the pandemic.
  • A 77-year-old woman in a marked crosswalk was killed by the 38-year-old driver of an SUV near 102 Street and Jasper Avenue just before 5pm on Nov. 30. The Edmonton Police Service said in a news release that no charges have been laid as the investigation is still ongoing.
  • Susan Hughson has resigned as executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) after complaining for months about an "unmanageable" workload and funding shortfalls following a 3% cut in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. She took over the role in July 2014; her last day will be Dec. 8. Hughson is planning to rejoin the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service as a prosecutor, with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu saying a "planned transition has been underway for some time."
  • Alberta has confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, joining B.C., Quebec, and Ontario. Canada now has at least six confirmed cases of the variant and has banned travellers from 10 countries in an attempt to contain the spread.
A small, plastic sensor tucked behind a woman's ear

AltaML and PROTXX make headway on concussion diagnostics

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Health Innovation Roundup

A partnership between precision health-care technology company PROTXX and Edmonton-based AltaML has resulted in a new benchmark in concussion diagnostics, the results of which were recently published in the journal Sensors.

PROTXX, which has offices in Menlo Park and Calgary, provided the proprietary technology — a phybrata (or physiological vibration acceleration) sensor that sits on the bone behind a person's ear. AltaML's machine learning analytics interpreted the data to provide a diagnostic solution, explained Alex Hope, data science manager for AltaML.

The sensor measures microscopic motions in the head, which are captured and interpreted in a variety of ways to make a diagnosis. The companies found that ML algorithms enabled the sensor to make a more precise diagnosis than previous approaches to ML-based concussion diagnostics.

"There's a major burden within the health-care system around getting professionals to actually diagnose concussions," Hope told Taproot. "They're also really hard to diagnose, because sometimes they're not fully clinical."

The remote sensor can help address some of those challenges from a resource perspective and may also catch other issues occurring inside someone's brain that aren't detectible through behavioural tests.

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