The Pulse: Sept. 27, 2022

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  • 27°C: Mainly sunny. High 27. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 0-3: The Edmonton Oilers lost to the Seattle Kraken in pre-season play. (details)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for the Winspear Centre's 25th birthday. (details)

Nafaa Haddou in a blue shirt standing against a wall

Nu Terra Labs aims to support vertical farming with automation and AI

By Mack Male

Nafaa Haddou, co-founder and CEO of Nu Terra Labs, sees great opportunity for vertical farming to contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Haddou and his brother Ismail stumbled into the sector several years ago when a side project building a monitoring system for hydroponics spiralled into learning more about green walls and vertical farming.

"The more we worked on it, the more we realized there's an opportunity to start making a change and addressing the issues of the circular food economy," Haddou told Taproot.

In 2021, the pair decided to launch a startup to explore the opportunity further. Their research indicated that once the growing process begins, there's a lot of human input involved in monitoring and adjusting the growing conditions. That's the specific problem Nu Terra Labs is focused on solving.

"We sell an end-to-end monitoring system," Haddou said. The company is at the MVP stage for its integrated control systems for monitoring and adjusting lighting, temperature, humidity, and more. The systems are designed to be plug-and-play and are hardware-agnostic, Haddou said.

"Our ideal customers are vertical farm producers and infrastructure suppliers," Haddou said.

Haddou said he has several letters of intent in place with potential clients, including one with Edmonton-based Botanical Pantry, a developer of net-zero indoor vertical farms that launched its first facility in St. Albert. California-based Rotary Garden North America is another.

Earlier this month, Nu Terra Labs was among the eight early-stage companies from Alberta selected for the inaugural THRIVE Academy agrifood pre-accelerator program.

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Headlines: Sept. 27, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • A cyclist was killed following a collision with an LRT train on Sept. 26. The individual was on the platform at Clareview LRT Station at the time of the incident. "Our deepest condolences and thoughts are with family and friends of the individual involved, as well as those affected by the incident," said Carrie Hotton-Macdonald, branch manager for Edmonton Transit Service. Edmonton police and ETS are investigating.
  • The Edmonton Police Service has released its strategic plan for 2023-2026, which adds improving public relations to the list of goals. When EPS surveyed the public in 2021, only 37% thought the police were doing a good job, down from 45% in 2020, while 20% of people thought the police were doing a poor or very poor job. University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola maintains that the recent viral video of an EPS officer shoving a woman demonstrates an "unreasonable and unnecessary use of force" and that the service's handling of the event conflicts with the goal of improving public relations. "An excessive use of force can ruin months and months of hard work," he told Postmedia. During the first half of 2022 there was a 7% rise in the use of force by police officers.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank is seeing record-high demand, with more than 36,000 people served in August compared to around 19,000 per month last year. The organization said it has spent more than $1.4 million on food this year to meet the rising need driven by inflation and the cost of living. Donations of non-perishable items can be made at major grocery stores and fire stations around the city, and monetary donations can be made online.
  • City council's community and public services committee voted in favour of overhauling Edmonton's fireworks bylaw. The changes, which would require all fireworks shows be produced by someone with training or a certified professional, will be incorporated into Public Places Bylaw adjustments that council will consider in mid-2023. Edmontonians are already prohibited from using fireworks in public places without a permit, but the rule is inconsistently enforced.
  • Edmontonians have taken notice of a Lime e-bike positioned upright on a sandbar in the middle of the North Saskatchewan River near the High Level Bridge.
  • Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin has been nominated to run for re-election with the NDP. Meanwhile, former Alberta Party president Rhiannon Hoyle defeated Nasim Boroumand to win the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South, a seat soon to be vacated by independent MLA Thomas Dang.
  • Hundreds of friends and family members of fallen officers gathered at the Legislature on Sept. 25 to celebrate Police and Peace Officers' Memorial Day. Inside the Legislature, the province unveiled a memorial carrying the names of 101 officers who died in the line of duty since 1876 in what is now Alberta.
  • The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, located around 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, has had seven artifacts returned by the Royal Alberta Museum under the terms of the Historical Resources Act. A Treaty 8 medal and its leather strap were physically repatriated, while the rest of the objects will remain on loan to the museum for preservation until the nation can install displays in its band office.
A screen capture of Nicole Janssen speaking beside a logo for AltaML

Two Edmonton-based AI companies rank high for revenue growth

By Karen Unland

An annual list of Canada's top growing companies includes 11 Edmonton-area companies, led by two working in artificial intelligence.

The list from the Report on Business charts three-year growth, which was 2,309% for AltaML on revenues between $10 million and $25 million, ranking it 18th.

"Our revenue growth is a reflection of many things done well, as we work toward elevating human potential with applied AI," co-founder and co-CEO Nicole Janssen said in a release. "Collaboration is at the heart of our business model and with the incredible team here, we have been able to deliver value in accelerating our clients' AI adoption, earning their trust."

Close behind at No. 20 is Trust Science, Evan Chrapko's AI-powered credit-scoring company, whose revenues in the $2-million-to-$5-million range grew by 2,144%. The company's software-as-a-service platform is used by lenders to identify borrowers who are good risks but don't have a track record.

"We're harnessing alternative data, as well as evaluating that data with way more powerful methods," Chrapko said in a sponsored piece. "That data is much messier and much less structured, and that's why there was no option but to use AI and machine learning in a legally compliant way."

Jobber, the provider of business-management software for home-service businesses, is the biggest Edmonton business on the list, which it has made for three years. On revenues between $100 million and $250 million, it managed revenue growth of 372%, putting it at 126 on the list of 430 companies.

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A kid on a skateboard sails over a man leaning against a jump at a skate park

Charity skateboard-video competition premieres this week

By Brett McKay

Skater and videographer Dale Bailey is looking to highlight local creativity while raising money for a good cause at this week's Skate for SCARS event.

The first-time showcase, to be screened at the Metro Cinema on Sept. 28, is the result of a challenge issued to Alberta skateboarders to create a two- to five-minute film over the summer.

A good skate video is more than just a highlight reel of impressive tricks, said Bailey, and the creative aspect is something he and the team behind the competition have tried to encourage.

"We really wanted to promote the idea of making a fun skit around it or making a theme for the video rather than just like a bunch of heavy-hitter skaters going at it. So it is really inclusive to a lot of the skateboard community," Bailey said.

"So many people put up their tricks on Instagram, and it just kind of gets old. We just see so much of that. And I just really wanted to promote something where people made a film rather than just a skateboard edit."

Bailey has some experience with that, having directed the 2018 feature-length documentary All Aboard, which follows a group of four first-time train hoppers as they ride the rails and skate across North America.

Eight teams are competing in the video competition, including Tigers Skate Club, Switch Mallgrab Crew, and Rumor Boardshop. They had to collect at least $50 in donations to participate.

The winner will receive $2,500, thanks to sponsorship from Oodle Noodle, and the proceeds from the event will go to the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS). Tickets are $10.

Image: A screenshot from the Skate for SCARS highlight reel. (Skate for SCARS/Instagram)