Rural Technology Centre announced in Canal Flats

Canal Flats Welcomes New Rural Tech Centre

Rural Technology Centre announced in Canal Flats

It’s a new era and the Village of Canal Flats, a small community located on the scenic southern shore of Columbia Lake in the East Kootenay, is ready to embrace the possibilities with a new technology centre.

Taking over the site that, for the many years previous was home to the mill and the village’s primary employer, the new Columbia Lake Technology Centre wants to bring data centres, greenhouses, trades training, technology training and more to the town and the region.

Canal Flats mill to be transformed into tech centre

A reception area at the mill site was packed with a standing-room-only crowd, including Premier John Horgan and Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras, on Tuesday, June 12th as the co-founders of the Columbia Lake Technology Centre announced their plans to turn the location into a high-tech data hub and training centre.

“We’re pulling from the past to the future,” centre co-founder Brian Fry said.  Fry, successful Technology Entrepreneur and Sr. Executive with 30 years of industry experience as well as co-founder of i4C Innovation Hub, in Trail, envisions seeing data centres, greenhouses to take advantage of the heat produced by the centres, training facilities, technical training programs and more.

While an old mill in the rural interior might not be the first place you’d envision a cutting-edge venture, Fry said the site has everything they need: lots of space (1,000 acres), lots of power and a fiber optic network that means the centre will be “as connected as anywhere in the world.”

Being in a rural area away from other technology centres is irrelevant to the business side of things, he said, adding that “we’re milliseconds from anywhere else in the world.”

Lifestyle, high speed fibre, affordability make Canal Flats a great choice

The location also comes with the advantages of being near “the glorious mountains,” and having access to affordable housing and land to develop, he said.

The mill shut down in 2015 and last year Mr. Fry’s co-founder, Brian Fehr, purchased the land.

Mr. Fehr chairs BID Group, a multinational corporation. His work has taken him all over rural BC and around the United States with high-tech equipment that makes manufacturing more efficient.

Fry says the amount of space and energy at the old site present a lot of opportunity.  “The idea is to make it so exciting that people that wouldn’t traditionally think of a rural area as a place to go will come here.” he says. “They might have a long history in the technology industry but they actually need a place to go.”

Fry adds that the availability of power and high speed fibre Internet in the area is extremely important.

“Electricity is actually a very important part of it and there’s a lot of electricity here because of the former mill so when you’re trying to run data centres, especially the type of processing were talking about, you would need a lot of power.” says Fry. “The next part is the Columbia Basin Trust fibre is in the valley so you’ve got a fibre-optic network that is unparalleled.”

“For the past 40 years I’ve been in the business of building and improving saw mills,” Mr. Fehr said. “We want to give back by creating value and opportunity for the people in rural B.C.”

Premier John Horgan, a former mill worker himself, stopped in Canal Flats to cheer on the initiative.

“We all know, nobody more so than the people in Canal Flats, that there’s a transition happening in our forest economy,” he said. “Technology, for better or worse, is reducing our ability to have people working in mills.”

The forestry industry continues to thrive, he said, but technology is displacing workers.  It only makes sense that the tech industry should play a big role in filling that gap in those areas and communities, like Canal Flats, that have found themselves so affected.

Over 20 people are already employed at the Columbia Lake Technology Centre site. By the end of the year, Mr. Fehr expects to have 100 people working on location – just as many as had been employed at the mill.

“The Columbia Lake Technology Centre is a classic example of how you can take industrial space, you can take access to energy – which the Kootenay has in abundance – and create economic opportunity” said Premier Horgan.

“What we’re experiencing right here, taking what was a crisis in 2015, and turning it into an extraordinary opportunity just three years later – because of the work of the community, because of the Trust, because of investors that had a vision – it’s just inspiring,” he said.

“When the mill closed, we were devastated,” said Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras, admitting that the shutdown brought the community to tears.

She, as well as the community, is ready for the opportunities the Columbia Lake Technology Centre presents, stating “I’m super excited about this new venture and adventure for this tiny little town.”

B.C. Smart Communities Pilot Program: Helping Small Communities Advance Technology & Innovation

The Government of British Columbia is launching the B.C. Smart Communities pilot program, to help local governments use data and connected technology to improve services and address community challenges.

“The B.C. Smart Communities program will help address the unique challenges small communities face when trying to secure funding for smart city projects,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “Whether it’s tracking cycling habits, to planning bike lanes, offering a mobile app to quickly find services, or tracking air quality to fostering responsible wood burning, the smart city economy offers countless solutions that can benefit people.”

A smart community uses technology and data to improve services for the community and its residents. It has the potential to enhance community life, from improving the way people live and move around, to creating a safer and more sustainable environment.

Pilot communities will highlight smart-community themes, such as economic diversity and growth, energy efficiency, citizen engagement, efficient transportation and community safety.

“Technology and data have enormous potential to improve a community’s infrastructure and decision making,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The B.C. Smart Communities program gives local governments the opportunity to take targeted action on important issues that can have a lasting positive impact on British Columbians’ everyday lives.”

A one-year pilot project, B.C. Smart Communities, is open to B.C. municipalities and First Nations communities with populations under 30,000. Grants of up to $40,000 will be provided to as many as four communities, which have until July 13, 2018, to apply. Communities will also have to secure additional in-cash or in-kind funding of $10,000, or 20%, from respective local governments or regional trusts.

“This pilot program is an excellent opportunity for smaller communities to partner with tech innovators, and find creative solutions to complex challenges,” said Shirley Vickers, Innovate BC president and CEO. “It will also give businesses the ability to advance technologies to make B.C. a leader in the trillion-dollar global smart-cities marketplace.”

The pilot will run from September 2018 to September 2019. Applications will be judged by a five-person panel, including provincial government representatives and industry experts.

Quick Facts:

  • The smart cities global market is predicted to have a value of up to $1.6 trillion by 2020.
  • B.C.’s tech sector employs over 106,000 people — an all-time high.
  • B.C.’s more than 10,200 technology companies generated $29 billion in annual revenue in 2016 (9% growth) — the highest ever recorded.

Learn More:

To learn more about B.C. smart communities and to apply, visit:

To learn more about the federal Smart Cities Challenge, visit:

#madeatMIDAS great minds in fabrication and 3D printing

Great Minds in Fabrication and 3D Printing: Our Regional Supercluster!

#madeatMIDAS great minds in fabrication and 3D printing

Kootenay supercluster:  Great Minds gather in fabrication and 3D printing

As evidenced by the funding award to the BC-led Digital Technology Supercluster earlier this year, there is some serious momentum building in the tech sector not only in the Lower Mainland, but throughout the province, as well as here in the Kootenays.

“It is an exciting and historic time for innovation in Canada. The Digital Technology Supercluster is a generational opportunity – one that holds significant promise for companies in BC and across Canada,” says Bill Tam, Co-Chair of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster consortium. “Now the important work begins. As a collective, we’ll apply data and use technology in new ways, such as mixed reality, which can digitally transform companies, solve industry problems and advance economic opportunities throughout BC, Canada and the world.”

The Kootenay region is ripe for expanding innovation and tech-based economic development, creating a fertile environment for the increasing clustering of initiatives, ideas, and talent springing to life throughout the region.  The combination of phenomenal mountain lifestyle, location, high-speed fibre Internet, access to markets, and affordability has offered up the perfect storm of opportunity appealing to innovators, disruptors and adventure-seeking entrepreneurs dialled in to the potential of the area to effectively and efficiently nurture and grow their respective businesses.

#metaltechalley clustering great minds 3D printing

West Kootenay:  Canada’s next Silicon Valley?

Essential to the evolution, or revolution as it’s being referred, is the region’s enthusiastic embrace of the power behind fabrication and 3D printing and rapid prototyping – resources often required to facilitate startup and business success.

The MIDAS Fab Lab,an MIT-certified digital fabrication laboratory in Trail, is a perfect example.  MIDAS, the Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies, is an applied research, commercialization and digital fabrication training facility becoming a hub for innovation and fabrication in the Kootenays.

With a focus on the metallurgical sector that has supported the region and the Teck Trail Operations smelter, MIDAS support entrepreneur development and the commercialization of applied, market-relevant research in the metallurgic industry.  The fab lab also works to helps to expand local small and medium-sized companies’ strengths in collaborating, adopting technology, and creating new and marketable products.  It also promotes skills & equipment training in digital fabrication and metallurgical technology, making recent advances in manufacturing tech (including 3D Printing) accessible to West Kootenay companies, entrepreneurs and students.

“Nelson and area has the potential to be the next Canadian ‘Silicon Valley’, and every day we see more and more talented STEAM advocates moving to the region, participating and adding to the growth and success of a solid foundation.”  Says MIDAS Fab Lab Director, Brad Pommen.  “I am excited to see what we’ve achieved in a short five years and the potential of where the next five years will take us.”

i4C innovation in Trail, BC, nestled in the the newly minted Metal Tech Alley, is a production and testing facility committed to the recruitment of early stage Industry 4.0-related companies that want to run their R&D, light fabrication, commercialization and/or distribution from their strategic location just minutes from the US border.

Tenants of i4C are provided with custom-designed infrastructure, equipment, professional services and access to venture capital focused on digital technologies for industrial applications.  Founded by three tech heavyweights, visionaries Pilar Portella, Brian Fry, and Tim Dufour, i4C is intended to be a regional innovation hub.  They understand the strong potential of the region for growing innovation as an economic driver.

According to Fry, “I think we can innovate even faster then other traditional Silicon Valley like environments due to our many advantages.” 

Another example of local 3D printing & fabrication innovation, a recent BCIC Ignite award recipient and exciting partnership between business and local academia, is exploring ways to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional 3D printing filament while at the same time drawing on resources native to BC.  Darrel Fry, CEO of Advanced BioCarbon 3D, and Jason Taylor of Selkirk College, respectively, were awarded $300,000 to develop 3D-printing filament from 100% biodegradable, engineering grade plastics and carbon fiber derived from lignin, the natural glue-like fibres found inside of wood.

States Taylor, “Academic and industry partnership is important for us because it provides the opportunity for our students to keep ahead of the curve.  It gives us the access to what industry is doing and really gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge with industry to provide a wold standard in the fields that we are working towards.”

#madeatMIDAS #makersgonnamake #metaltechalley












20th Anniversary of KAST

20 Day Giveaway – KAST’s 20th Anniversary Contest!

20th Anniversary of KASTIn honour of 20th Anniversary, the folks here at KAST thought what better way to celebrate than to give away some great innovative stuff!

To help us celebrate and to enter the giveaway, we ask that you simply like the KAST Facebook page and enter your email (daily!) for the chance to win some great swag.   The perfect opportunity for anyone interested in trying the facilities here at the MIDAS Fab Lab because on the block is a great grand prize pack, which includes a 1 month membership at MIDAS, along with 2 FREE MIDAS courses of your choosing.

There’s other great stuff, too, and all the prizes are completely transferrable so be sure to consider the creative innovator or maker in your family, home, or office and make it happen!

The contest opens today and runs for 20 days, don’t delay!

So, help us celebrate 20 years supporting science, tech, business, startups and all things innovation in the Koots and be sure to visit KAST on Facebook, like us, leave your info, and increase your chances to win!

Thanks to all and good luck!









Premier Announces Tech & Innovation Investments to spark economic growth, job creation

Premier Announces Tech & Innovation Investments

Premier Announces Tech & Innovation Investments to spark economic growth, job creation

Premier announces tech & innovation investments to spark economic growth &  job creation

To help spark B.C. innovation, economic growth and new jobs, the provincial government is investing in tech-based research and advanced training opportunities in all parts of the province, Premier John Horgan announced today at the #BCTECH Summit.

“B.C. succeeds when British Columbians succeed — and our province’s tech sector is proving that every day,” said Premier Horgan, adding that the sector has over 10,000 companies employing more than 106,000 people.

“Our job is to provide opportunities and partnerships that help companies and individuals innovate, succeed and grow. This approach delivers more jobs and a stronger economy, and helps support health care, education, housing and other public services that make British Columbia a great place to live and work.”

The Province announced that it is investing over $102.6 million in funding for 75 post-secondary research projects in B.C., through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF). The projects will develop B.C.’s expertise and innovation in fields such as advanced supercomputing and clean technology, to spur job creation, talent development and commercialize innovation.

To attract and retain the best graduate students, the B.C. government will invest $12 million in graduate degree scholarships over the next three years. The funding will support priority areas such as science, tech, engineering and mathematics programs, as well as Indigenous students and regional programs. The Province will also invest in women-in-technology scholarships to inspire a new generation of women to take up science and tech-based professions.

To further develop tech talent, $10.5 million will be invested in co-op opportunities and entrepreneurial training for post-secondary students, so they can gain vital hands-on experience to be job-ready when they enter the tech sector.

“B.C.’s success comes from the ideas, innovation and inspiration of people who call this province home,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “From a two-person startup, to large established tech firms and traditional resource industries, innovation can deliver a wealth of benefits to people, companies and our provincial economy. It is about creating good jobs for people in every corner of the province.”

To help make it easier for tech companies to recruit top international talent to B.C., government will expand its Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot. That means priority processing for people in tech occupations, such as biotechnologists, software engineers and web developers.

“Investing in innovation is the best thing we can do to set our province up for success,” said Andrew Weaver, BC Green Party leader. “Technology is driving global growth and has the potential to add value to every sector of B.C.’s economy. This minority government is a unique opportunity to come together to champion a bold vision for the future of our province, and I am proud to be working in partnership with the government to support our tech sector.”

The B.C. government will unveil a provincewide tech strategy next year that will help provide all people with the ability to work and prosper in the communities they call home. In turn, the Province will invest in health care, education, housing and other public services that make B.C. a great place to live and work.

The Province of British Columbia is hosting the third-annual #BCTECH Summit on May 14-16, 2018, in partnership with Innovate BC, the Province’s Crown agency. Innovate BC encourages the development and application of advanced or innovative technologies to meet the needs of B.C. industry.

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, “As part of our tech-expansion, we’re adding 2,900 more tech spaces, launching a graduate student scholarship fund and providing awards for women pursuing a science or tech-based profession. We’re breaking down barriers to good-paying jobs for people in the booming tech sector by making post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.”

Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services, “Having access to reliable, high-speed internet is the foundation for the growing digital economy, and essential for the expansion of technology and innovation in every corner of our province. It is important that this growing sector be fostered everywhere in B.C. That is why we are investing in connectivity for rural, remote and Indigenous communities, because we believe that everyone — no matter where they live — should have the tools they need to be part of this important industry.”

Quick Facts:

  • The tech sector in B.C. is one of the fastest growing sectors of its economy, supporting over 106,000 good-paying jobs. It is home to more than 10,200 businesses.
  • Over 83,400 tech-related jobs openings are expected by 2027 — jobs such as computer programmers, engineers, information system analysts and software designers.
  • In January 2018, the B.C. government announced 2,900 tech-related spaces that will produce 1,000 additional tech-grads a year by 2023, to improve access to training and education. This includes the first full civil and environmental engineering program in the North at the University of Northern British Columbia, and the first full software engineering program in the Interior at Thompson River University. To support these new spaces, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training plans to increase investment up to $42 million a year in ongoing funding.
  • In April 2018, the B.C. government partnered with the Government of Canada to provide B.C. biotechnology company STEMCELL Technologies with $45 million to create up to 2,170 B.C. jobs by 2031, and build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Burnaby.
  • Also in April 2018, the Province, together with the federal government and the Alacrity Foundation, provided the Cleantech Scale-Up program with over $787,000 to help promising clean tech companies throughout B.C. get investment-ready and sell to new markets.
  • In February 2018, Alan Winter was appointed B.C.’s first innovation commissioner as an advocate for the tech and innovation sector in Ottawa, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor and abroad.
wavefront strategy session Castlegar

Wavefront Strategy Session: Technology & Your Local Economy

wavefront strategy session Castlegar

KAST stakeholders recently participated in a great opportunity to utilize the Wavefront tools to connect and brainstorm issues pertaining to the direction of local tech and economic development.

Launching the two-hour session was a brief discussion: ‘Technology and Your Local Economy’; followed by a brainstorming session to compile a variety of problem statements. The problem statements identify the challenges facing technology as an economic driver, and were narrowed down by a group vote.

To help address the issues decided upon, Wavefront facilitates a ‘How Might We….’ out of the most popular statements, generating helpful goal-oriented problem statements. These statements are then passed on to the Board to aid in strategy planning.

KAST and wavefront strategy session

Once sessions have been completed throughout the province, the key questions will be summarized and delivered from Wavefront.  The intention driving the sessions is to identify the issues by region, helping to identify the specific challenges, so that key stakeholders are better prepared to work together to solve them.

Wavefront, transforming business through mobile and IoT innovation, is designed to help businesses and organizations scale for sustainability, better reach global markets, while enabling acceleration in commercial impact.  The vision behind the Wavefront platform, as Canada’s centre of commercialization for mobile and IoT technologies, is to build a globally relevant, nationally connected ecosystem that delivers digital capacity, competitiveness and prosperity for Canadians.