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Feds pump $16.7M into local research

A Christmas tree that doesn’t shed needles all over your freshly vacuumed carpet?

A Christmas tree that doesn’t shed needles all over your freshly vacuumed carpet?

It’s every homeowner’s dream, and according to researchers at Nova Scotia Agricultural College, that dream could become a reality within just a few years.

The quest for the needle-retaining “super tree” was just one of seven innovative projects that received a substantial financial boost from the federal government’s Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) yesterday in Halifax.

A total of $16.7 million was doled out to support ongoing Nova Scotian research in everything from biofuel to brain repair — funding that the government says will allow teams to speed up their work and purchase much-needed equipment. The Christmas tree project received $2.4 million, to be spread over five years.

“This gives us the chance to take one of the best trees in the world, and make it better,” said Matthew Wright, executive director of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia. “Here in Atlantic Canada, we have some of the longest needle retention in the world. It’s just a matter of isolating it, proving it, and then marketing it.”

Nova Scotia’s Christmas tree industry currently pulls in nearly $72 million annually, with thousands of balsam firs shipped out of the province each November to the rest of Canada, the U.S., South America, and even Japan. Wright said he’s confident those profits will increase dramatically with the introduction of stronger, longer-lasting trees.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was on hand for yesterday’s announcement, praised all of the researchers for their “ground-breaking” work.

“Innovation is critical to the economic growth and long-term prosperity of the Atlantic region,” MacKay said. “We are investing in realistic and achievable projects.”

This is the seventh round of investments made through the AIF, which was created in 2001 to help bolster projects being conducted by universities, research institutions and private sector businesses in the Atlantic provinces.

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