The Pulse: Jan. 25, 2022

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

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  • 5°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High plus 5. Wind chill minus 7 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • 8pm: The Oilers (19-16-2) will face off against the Vancouver Canucks (18-19-4) at 8pm. (details)

Ashif Mawji, Rachel Chalmers, and Doug Holt

Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator names first cohort

By Karen Unland

Two companies born in Edmonton are among an international group of tech startups in the first cohort of the Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator.

Areto Labs and PALcares will be joined by 18 participants from Russia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, Argentina, the United States, and elsewhere in Canada in the Edmonton-based accelerator. The 12-week program will give them business development and mentorship opportunities, as well as access to community service agencies and data from the Edmonton Police Service.

The mission of the accelerator is to show that Alberta can do social good, said Ashif Mawji, chair of the accelerator. "We can bring entrepreneurs from all around the world and help them by giving them the data, the domain expertise, the community partners, the agencies, the first customer, funding, and all of the ingredients that a startup needs to be successful," he said at the announcement of the first cohort.

Mawji said about 65 companies applied to the accelerator, which is a partnership between the Edmonton Police Foundation (which Mawji also chairs), Alberta Innovates, and Silicon Valley's AlchemistX, with support from TELUS and Innovate Edmonton. It is one of four programs announced as part of the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerators Program last fall.

"We're excited to take our investment in this first-of-its-kind program to create profitable business that hires great people and makes a positive impact on the world from right here in this province," said Lana Cuthbertson, co-founder and CEO of Areto Labs, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze sentiment on social media and moderate online abuse.

The other Edmonton company, PALcares, is an AI-based recommendation system that connects community members to relevant social supports while collecting data to enhance social services over time.

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By Mack Male and Doug Johnson and Madeleine Stout

  • City council defeated a motion from Coun. Anne Stevenson that would have cancelled plans to spend $26.5 million on an underground pedway as part of Qualico's planned Station Lands development. "I felt that the public benefit coming out of this deal wasn't high enough to warrant supporting the borrowing bylaw," Stevenson told her colleagues. Only two councillors — Michael Janz and Jo-Anne Wright — supported her motion. Council added the 103A Avenue Pedway to the Downtown CRL in August 2021, but it is still awaiting provincial approval.
  • The city is concerned about water pooling on residential roads due to blocked drains. Andrew Grant, the city's supervisor of field operations, said crews were dealing with several areas where stacked windrows have inadvertently blocked drainage access, resulting in pooled water creating icy roads.
  • Victor Cui has been named president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks. The University of Alberta alumnus is currently the CEO of International ONE Championship, a mixed martial arts program based in Singapore.
  • On Wednesday, city council will consider a motion that could be the city's first step toward decriminalizing minor drug offences. Coun. Michael Janz, who put forward the motion, hopes that it will change how the city handles harm reduction and drug policy. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has also said council should look at every option to help address the overdose crisis.
  • Kids aged five to 11 in Alberta have the lowest vaccination rates in Canada — just 39.81% have received their first, doses compared to 47.44% in British Columbia, which has the second-lowest rate. According to a CBC News analysis, fewer than one in three kids are vaccinated against COVID-19 across much of the province.
  • New data from WCB shows that COVID-19 is a large workplace hazard — there were 15,066 claims for WCB compensation for COVID-19 infection in the last two years. The Alberta Federation of Labour argues the data demonstrates that the UCP's response to the pandemic has fallen "tragically short."
  • Adèle Kent, a retired Court of Queen's Bench justice, will investigate whether Justice Minister Kaycee Madu's phone call to Police Chief Dale McFee about a distracted driving ticket "constituted interference or an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice." Kent is expected to report her findings to the government by Feb. 15.
  • Nesika Services, an Indigenous non-profit, is looking to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The group is reaching out to all 129 communities that the federal government has identified as being impacted by the pipeline. The organization said it "is not backed by industry or affiliated with financial institutions or operating parties."
On The Edge Coffee owner Jodine Chase with the Bellwether roaster

On The Edge Coffee adopts self-contained coffee roaster

By Sharon Yeo

A new kind of ventless coffee roaster is allowing Edmonton's On The Edge Coffee to release less pollution and tailor its roast to each type of bean.

Bellwether Coffee, based out of Berkeley, California, has created an electric and automated system that allows roasters to operate in spaces without requiring separate ventilation. On The Edge started using the machine at its Edmonton Downtown Farmers' Market kiosk in December 2021, becoming the first in Edmonton and one of just a handful of roasters using the system across Canada.

Owner Jodine Chase acknowledged that coffee has challenges when it comes to sustainability, considering the distance it travels to reach consumers in other parts of the world. But transitioning to the Bellwether was a way for On The Edge to cut down on its own emissions.

"Roasting accounts for about 15% of the coffee industry's footprint, and so there's room to reduce that right here in coffee-consuming countries instead of mainly burdening low- and middle-income coffee-growing countries," said Chase.

The Bellwether's air filtration system reduces the volatile organic compounds and particulate matter that traditional roasters release into the atmosphere, she added.

Another big selling feature of the Bellwether is its consistent product output. Bellwether users have the option to source beans directly from the company, then program the machine to roast it based on a specific profile uploaded by Bellwether for that particular bean. That seamlessness allows roasters with less experience to tap into global expertise through the power of the internet. Currently, 75% of the beans roasted by On the Edge are from Bellwether.

"On my best day, I couldn't do it as consistent as the (Bellwether) does," said Jennifer Graham, head barista with On the Edge.

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