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Mining our Marine Resources, Naturally

Monday, October 1, 2018

Surrounded by more than 7,400 km of coastline, Nova Scotia’s economy is closely connected to the ocean. So naturally, our businesses understand its resources – which is why we’re innovators when it comes to natural health products derived from marine resources.

A great example is Nature’s Way Canada. The company creates, markets, and distributes premium natural health products around the world. In 2015, Nature’s Way acquired Ascenta Health, a Nova Scotia-based start-up that excelled in the Omega 3 market. Nature’s Way has three locations in Canada: Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax, where its national head office is located.

So, why would a company like Nature’s Way choose Halifax, Nova Scotia for its national head office?

We’re glad you’ve asked. Steve Chiasson, Vice President and General Manager, Nature’s Way Canada, explains, “Nova Scotia offers a unique combination of established Life Sciences companies, access to talent, and business support mechanisms. These knowledge-based assets are also complimented with great access to logistics. We have a world-class port facility, and an airport that enables direct access to an impressive number of key locations. Overall, the province represents a great opportunity for small and medium sized businesses to scale.”

Nature’s Way sells its products nationally across independent and corporate health food stores, national food, drug and club chains, and health care practitioners. In Nova Scotia, the company’s Omega 3 manufacturing facility produces all of its liquid Omega 3 products for Canada and the US markets.

A Talented Workforce and Supportive Business Climate

According to Chiasson, there are two key elements that make Nova Scotia competitive for Nature’s Way: the availability of a quality, talented workforce, and access to a highly supportive business climate.

In Nova Scotia, businesses benefit from a high concentration of universities developing talent across all functions, from scientific research to marketing expertise. A large percentage of these talented graduates want to stay and develop rewarding careers in Nova Scotia, which ensures a committed, talented workforce for companies like Nature’s Way. 

There is also a wide variety of support mechanisms to help businesses succeed in the province. Multiple government agencies such as Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Innovacorp, Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) and the National Research Council (NRC) provide both financial support and programming to assist businesses as they launch and grow.

The community for Health and Life Sciences companies includes industry associations such as BioNova who lead, accelerate, and advocate for Nova Scotia’s growing sector and universities, who create environments for sharing ideas and building relationships. Even private businesses in the province tend to operate with an open-door policy to others in the business community. There is a genuine interest in seeing others succeed and many business leaders in the region dedicate their time to provide coaching and advice. Call it our Maritime culture.

Nature’s Way has identified R&D, as well as manufacturing, as key growth opportunities for its business from Nova Scotia.

“We have a research lab on Dalhousie University’s campus that has traditionally focused on Omega 3 development. Moving forward we will be exploring ways to expand our focus beyond Omega 3s. In manufacturing, we have recently completed a major upgrade to our production facility in Dartmouth that has expanded our capacity and increased our efficiency.  We are now positioned to confidently pursue more growth opportunities for liquid Omega 3 production,” says Chiasson.

Health and Life Sciences in Nova Scotia

There are more than 100 businesses generating nearly $350 million in export sales annually, with more than 590 commercialized products. Activities in the industry have clustered around:

  • Bioproducts: Biofuel from marine algae, agricultural growth enhancers from seaweed and cellulose-based chemicals are examples of work happening in this area.
  • Pharmaceuticals and vaccines: From a vaccine for cancer to a new class of anti-infectives to topical treatments for pain, Nova Scotians are working on the forefront of drug discovery and development.
  • Medical technologies: Innovations range from sophisticated neuro-imaging technologies, to traumatic brain injury assessment, to a robust line of diagnostic tests that address some of today’s greatest health care challenges.
  • Digital health: Products in this area range from bioinformatics, to computer generated simulations, to the gathering and transmission of critical information from paramedics to hospitals.
  • Natural health products: Examples include milk or juice fortified with extra calcium, products rich in Omega3 fatty acids, wild berry extracts and sports supplements.

Interested in learning more about Nova Scotia's Life Sciences sector? Check out our new infographic!

Additionally, there is a critical mass of students and scientists undertaking exciting R&D in many of our post-secondary institutions and research centres, including:

Learn more about Nova Scotia’s Life Sciences Industry at www.BioNova.ca  and www.novascotiabusiness.com/lifesciences