FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (March 23, 2022)
Abbotsford, BC – A leading BC geospatial technology solutions provider, i-Open Group has partnered with the University of the Fraser Valley, Archway Community Services, and Fraser Health Authority to spearhead an exciting project developing a tool for understanding and potentially improving food security and justice in Abbotsford. The Abbotsford Food Asset Map is a mapping tool that visually represents food asset locations related to individuals and families within the city. Furthermore, the tool helps identify gaps and areas of low access to food assets and services while allowing users (foodbanks, healthcare support, other such professionals, and researchers) to examine these areas concerning socioeconomic data (from the Canadian census), such as neighbourhood populations, dwelling density, and other factors.
Using Agrilyze, i-Open’s leading-edge, cloud-hosted, data-driven analytics platform, the tool displays point data and choropleth maps of food assets within different census tracts of Abbotsford. Using a ‘Food Asset Framework’, categories and descriptions such as ‘local food producers and retailers’ or ‘local growers with restaurants or farm stores’ highlight the types of food assets available to individuals and families. Comparing this map with other data, users can see interactions among vulnerabilities within the community. For instance, housing and job insecurity risks data, provided by the research team at Simon Fraser University led by Dr. Valorie Crooks, were added to the map to identify overlap among these risks and low food assets.
Sr. VP, Product Management Jonathon McIntyre adds, “As Agrilyze incorporates data from new sources, new ways to use that data emerge. New data from traditional farms, vertical agriculture, food supply chains, and climate change allows us to ask further questions or perhaps combine information to gain valuable synergy. The Food Map is one such interaction where several unrelated groups with a common goal – understanding food security in Abbotsford – were able to build on census data and glean more value from their research. This census, agricultural, public health and municipal data combination helps many groups look at the same data with different outcomes. We look forward to building on this value-added component to support local agriculture with our Truly Farm to Table solution, DirectFood.store.”
The project recognizes significant sustainability issues that impact thousands across Abbotsford, including almost half of all First Nations families. Their experiences with food insecurity cause substantial health impacts and can even be considered a burden on the health care system. And while it may stem from poverty, it undoubtedly reflects the social and economic inequities and disparities experienced in many communities throughout BC and Canada.
Efforts toward improving food security and justice include understanding and increasing awareness of the relationships between an individual’s overall health and access to different food assets and services. The Abbotsford Food Asset Map is a community tool that can be updated with new data to capture changes in food assets’ locations, availability, and accessibility. By locating the areas where individuals and families could experience food insecurity, the tool can help inform an actionable strategy to establish new assets and services that communities need, thus putting community planning into context.
Robert Newell, Associate Director of the UFV Food and Agriculture Institute, states, “The Abbotsford Food Asset Map is useful for understanding the food environments in different places throughout the city. The tool shows the neighbourhoods rich with nutritional food assets and programs and those that are lacking. In addition, beyond its spatial applications, the tool and Food Asset Framework are useful for stimulating thinking about the things that contribute to food security. For example, we included transit stops in the map, as these are important for many people in terms of accessing food services and retail outlets.”
Through local drive and passion, the team takes the first steps toward ensuring that people have enough high-quality, safe food to feed their families. By emphasizing that every person should have the right to know the food outlets, services and programs available to them, and most critically, where these are located, individuals and families facing crises can become more informed. Furthermore, government and community organizations can devise approaches to tackle food insecurity. Ultimately, it is a tool that explores the idea of accessibility and can give users a sense of the distribution of varying food assets. It is also a tool for understanding local food assets, which hopefully can be used to examine food security and justice.
Pam Alexis, MLA for Abbotsford – Mission adds, “Today, more than ever, we must pay attention to the needs of our community, especially when it comes to food security. Between the pandemic and 2021’s catastrophic flooding, the amazing and resilient agricultural community here in the Valley needs support. The Abbotsford Food Map is an innovative and forward-thinking project that can help us contribute to our community’s overall wellness. I am excited to see what type of recovery projects can come out of this to impact individuals and families across Abbotsford and Mission.”
The i-Open Group is driven to deliver real and sustainable high-tech solutions for a better planet. Through projects like this, transformation can occur, setting a stage for BC to become an epicentre for innovation, developing and producing world-class technologies that help those in need. For example, as i-Open explores solutions like the Abbotsford Food Asset Map, they can contribute toward resilient food systems that can withstand and recover from disruptions such as COVID-19 to help provide communities with sufficient supply and access to acceptable food.
Learn more about Food Asset Mapping here.
Learn more on the project background here.
About Food and Agriculture Institute, UFV:
The Food and Agriculture Institute (FAI) at the University of the Fraser Valley is an interdisciplinary research centre focused on issues, challenges, and sustainability solutions related to food and farm systems. FAI partners with researchers, industry leaders, and governments to build knowledge and tools for moving toward sustainable, resilient food systems for communities and regions in BC and across the globe.
Robert Newell, Associate Director
604-504-7441 ext. 4538
Agrilyze is a data analytics and insights platform for the agriculture industry developed by i-Open Technologies, a geospatial technology and AI solutions leader. Agrilyze helps farmers manage their farms, manage work efficiently between teams, centralize all farm data for better insights, integrate data from sensors, devices and other systems and remain compliant with environmental regulations.
Jonathon McIntyre, Sr. VP, Product Management