In 2014, the Province of Nova Scotia, as part of the One Nova Scotia Report, launched the Provincial Sandbox Initiative designed to create a culture of entrepreneurism for students and communities across the Province. It came about as a result of the question – how and when do we get people moving through the start-up funnel?
The sandbox idea lives at the top of the funnel with each location acting as a hub designed to leverage the brain power in the province’s universities and colleges to help drive knowledge-based businesses and to offer educational learning opportunities.
Jolene MacEachern runs Dalhousie University’s agriculture focused sandbox program Cultiv8 out of the university’s Truro Campus. Cultiv8 is one of 7 sandbox programs in the Province designed to ensure all university students have access to resources necessary to help their ideas become reality. MacEachern says the key with programs like Cultiv8 is to get kids excited about innovation and entrepreneurship in their chosen field.
“Agriculture is a global innovation driver in many other regions of the world,” says MacEachern. “We need to expose our students to these ideas. They need to know robots are farming in Japan. By getting people excited we will change the way we look at agriculture’s role in our emerging new economy.”
The sandbox program also offers an Innovation Summer Bootcamp which includes 16 weeks of entrepreneurship programming.
“Once they’re engaged we see tremendous excitement,” says MacEachern. “It’s because they’re learning that they can carve their own destiny and isn’t that what we want most for our students?”