The building was sold by the Municipality of West Hants through a public tender process late last month. The successful bidder was CaNile Consultants Ltd. of Halifax, which offered a price of $95,000.
“This is very good news for West Hants,” said Warden Abraham Zebian. “This is a great day for West Hants as this company will be developing the building to begin an aquaculture and aquaponics business, processing and packaging agricultural products. This will result in the creation of a minimum of 10 to 15 new jobs for our area and hopefully more as the business grows.”
In an interview, CaNile Consultants’ owner Mohamad Ramadan said he, along with two partners, are the new owners of the school under the banner of the Newport Station Investors Group.
“We have been studying aquaponics for some time now and felt it might be a very good idea to start aquaponics for the first time in Nova Scotia,” said Ramadan, noting the indoor organic farming practice is really popular in other areas of Canada, across the U.S. and in other counties, with higher yields, and less water usage than traditional farming methods.
In a nutshell, aquaponics involves growing plants in nutrient-rich water. What the Newport Station Investors Group plans to do is to design an enclosed water circulatory system that includes a small population of fish living in water that is circulated to the plants after the fish waste is collected, then cured in a tank where it is also processed by adding nutrients that the vegetables love.
The plants absorb the nutrients and the water comes back to the fish clean and filtered, said Ramadan.
Before proceeding, the property needs to be rezoned, which should be concluded by mid-November, said Ramadan. A community hearing is part of the re-zoning hearing.
“West Hants municipality has been helping us a great deal by speeding up the process,” said Ramadan.
In the meantime, consultants are designing the aquaponics system to give the best yield and best health of the plants and fish, said Ramadan, adding the Newport Station Investors Group is “doing our best” to source the components for the system locally.
Ramadan said he expects to be in production sometime in February 2018.
“Once we start, we expect to employ five or six people,” he said, and as the business is further developed in stages, more jobs will be created.
“Each stage will create three or four more jobs, so within two years, we should have about 15 people,” he said.
“We have already started hiring and meeting people from the neighbourhood,” he added, noting people “are very excited.”
As the business is developed, the plan is to construct other buildings on the site, said Ramadan, and predict an investment of about $3 million over five years.
In addition to the commercial aquaponics operation, Ramadan said the company also plans to start an aquaponics educational class next year which the public will be invited to attend to familiarize themselves with aquaponics.
“Anybody can do it,” he said.
The Newport Station Investors Group is also going to be collaborating with Dalhousie Agriculture to get aquaponics on the curriculum as one of the subjects they teach in Truro.
“We are already working on it,” Ramadan said.