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Scheduled to open in September 2018, Seneca College’s Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship will be a hub for innovation and entrepreneurial activities, an expanded location for the mechatronics and mechanical engineering technology programs, and the new home for the Office of Applied Research and Innovation.

A software app to help you dodge long waits in hospital emergency rooms. A food growing project that uses "fish poop" to fertilize vegetables in a soil-less environment. A computer program that guides you to the Canadian retirement home best suited to your parent's needs.

You might expect these innovative projects would spring from the minds of well-seasoned business people. But all three, as well as another 100 equally creative startup enterprises, are the brainchildren of current or former students at Seneca College in Toronto.

With more than 50 years of success behind it, Seneca has earned a powerful vote of confidence from the federal and Ontario governments, which recently granted Seneca $27.3-million to establish the Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) at its Newnham Campus.

When it opens in September 2018, CITE will be a hub for Seneca's innovation and entrepreneurial activities, an expanded location for the mechatronics and mechanical engineering technology programs, and the new home for the Office of Applied Research and Innovation, which includes the entrepreneurship incubator – HELIX.

Laurel Schollen, Seneca's vice-president, academic, says Seneca, with 28,000 full-time students at four main campuses in the province's college system, is a good home for these kinds of activities.

"A strength of a college education is in the involvement of students in a lot of hands-on activities, so it's the match of theory with practical," she says. "Colleges have always had very good facilities for learning and more touch points between faculty and students than a university."

With the new CITE hub, Ms. Schollen says, "We really are looking at working with different types of businesses and companies than might work with a university as the research model is different with colleges."

"A strength of a college education is in the involvement of students in a lot of hands-on activities, so it's the match of theory with practical. Colleges have always had very good facilities for learning and more touch points between faculty and students than a university."

- Laurel Schollen
is Seneca's vice-president, academic

Brandon Hebor and Steven Bourne, graduates of Seneca's Green Business Management certificate program, are proud co-partners of Ripple Farms, the food growing project based on fish excrement, and one of HELIX's newest green sustainable ventures.

"We are farmers of the future in that we have Canada's first urban farming unit," said Mr. Hebor. The unit, basically a shipping container with a greenhouse on top, uses aquaculture, raising fish, and hydroponics or soil-less plant cultivation to produce food. The fish are fed organic fish food and their "poop," is ammonia, which, through a two-stage filtration process, is converted to nitrate, a primary fertilizer.

The entire project, inspired by similar ventures in Belgium and the U.K., has come together remarkably quickly. "We started writing the business plan eight months ago, but started our initial build on the pilot project two months ago and we have just finished construction," said Mr. Bourne. "And we started the cycle and are ready to start growing some food."

HELIX director Chris Dudley says the pair embody what the 'learn-do philosophy' that Seneca and HELIX are all about.

"They had a passion for sustainability," he says. "They saw a problem in the community and they started working on a solution. They came to HELIX to assist them in the development of that solution, making it viable so they can educate others and have a positive impact on the environment and the economy."


This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.