Towards a Framework for Northern Food Systems Innovation

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design has supported a number of arts, creative entrepreneurship and climate adaptation projects.

This developmental pilot project supports Indigenous early career exposure and cultural entrepreneurship capacity building for the Manitoba agri-food and agriculture sectors.

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Enhancing Indigenous Food Systems

Niriqatiginnga: Towards a Framework for Northern Food Systems Innovation

Niriqatiginnga means “come eat with me” in Inuktitut. The project is designed to address issues of food insecurity with northern Indigenous communities through a highly collaborative approach engaging a range of stakeholders such as farmers, food producers, and systems innovators. 

The project explores traditional knowledge, technology development and data-driven approaches to address northern food insecurity. It builds capacity and skills needed to capture new, emerging market opportunities for Manitoba Indigenous food sector businesses. It also encourages evidence-based policy and process recommendations for more efficient and competitive northern supply chains.

In December 2023, this component of Niriqatiginnga was approved for funding from the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Program – Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems program with Manitoba Agriculture

About the Project

Year One: Establishing the Niriqatiginnga Project

Niriqatiginnga is an Indigenous-led pilot project, co-designed with a wide range of industry and cross-sectoral stakeholder input, including: farmers, food producers, arts and culture, academia, government and food systems innovators, youth, Elders, local and northern Manitoba food sector businesses.

Niriqatiginnga’s foundational first year will explore data-driven and evidence-based approaches to addressing northern food insecurity. It builds on the results of prior research projects supported over the last four years, including: the US National Science FoundationMinneapolis College of Art and Design, the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council and the ArcticNet Network Centre of Excellence.  

Using participatory research, emergent design, lean start-up methodologies and approaches similar to a ‘living lab’ concept, Niriqatiginnga will study northern and Manitoba supply chain optimization, and pathways to cultural entrepreneurship for the food sector. An outcome of this pilot program is to design and establish an Indigenous Food Systems Entrepreneurship Lab. 

Niriqatiginnga is also developing a prototype marketplace and framework for advancing economic reconciliation through food sector entrepreneurship, technology adoption and innovation.  

This work will lay the foundation for pre-commercial science activities and market analysis research, in particular, to enhance a technology-driven marketplace (TRL 4-7). Related activities and collaboration will support northern supply chain optimization, enhanced Nutrition North Canada compliance reporting and hands-on, cultural and creative food sector entrepreneurship training. 

Learning from the Past, Present and Future:

Our project includes learning about microeconomics and supply chains from the past, present, and future.

  • The “Past” will delve into the cultural and trading history of northern Indigenous communities.
  • In the “Present,” the project will explore the increasingly inequitable realities of northern food supply chains and investigate the extent of purchase power parity.
  • In the “Future” subproject, Niriqatiginnga will be positioned to sustain a healthy business, community and data-driven ecosystem for Indigenous agri-food-related cultural entrepreneurship through traditional trade and new technologies.

2023-2024 Project Activities

This pilot project is being co-designed by a wide range of industry and cross-sectoral stakeholder input: farmers, food producers, academia and systems innovators, to youth, Elders, local and northern Manitoba food sector businesses.
Niriqatiginnga explores traditional knowledge, technology development and data-driven approaches to address northern food insecurity; capacity and skills needed to capture new, emerging market opportunities for Manitoba businesses; and encourages evidence-based policy and process recommendations for more efficient and competitive northern supply chains.

2023-2024 Project Goals

Niriqatiginnga will work to create meaningful and enhanced local and regional collaboration, working across northern, rural and urban centers. The project’s research components will also analyze northern food sales and Nutrition North Canada sales and shipping.

  • Quantitative data analysis will use descriptive statistics (ie: means and standard deviations) to describe changes in access to fresh, healthy food, food security, and economic impacts.
  • Qualitative data will be analyzed using content analysis to identify themes related to reducing food insecurity.
  • A three-year strategic plan will be developed. Its purpose will be to inform measurable best practices to address northern food insecurity and policy recommendations; new product creation; increased Technology Readiness Levels, data and technology-driven supply chain optimization.
  • Market expansion and sectoral development activities will intersect with community food literacy, cultural and creative entrepreneurship research, skills development and training.

Building on Arts and Participatory Research

Niriqatiginnga explores traditional knowledge, technology development and data-driven approaches to address northern food insecurity; capacity and skills needed to capture new, emerging market opportunities for Manitoba businesses; and encourages evidence-based policy and process recommendations for more efficient and competitive northern supply chains.

Applied research training will design and deliver a pilot program for technology research and data analysis for evidence-based solutions. It increases Indigenous participation in Manitoba agri-food and agriculture sectors. This research is intended to enhance capacity for collaboration across Nutrition North Canada communities in northern Manitoba and Nunavut using Winnipeg as a hub.

Engaging with Community

Empowering Indigenous Food Sector Entrepreneurship

Initial consultations and the results of prior research showed a strong need to develop capacity for arts-based and participatory, community-led and data-driven approaches where primary stakeholders, Northern and Indigenous communities, youth and Elders are actively involved in addressing and enhancing northern food systems.

Community engagement began July 2023 in Winnipeg and is ongoing. Using prior participatory and co-designed approaches, the team engaged key stakeholders, including: Indigenous youth, knowledge keepers and Elders from several Manitoba and Kivalliq Nunavut communities, plus local food producers, entrepreneurs and businesses, northern community programs, MB Agriculture program staff and policy analysts. 

In-depth meetings, round table group discussions and informal consultation sessions are being employed to gather valuable insights and diverse perspectives which will be integrated into the project’s design. This will help to ensure the goals and outcomes are achievable and aligned with community priorities.

Advancing Economic Reconciliation with Indigenous PeoplesNiriqatiginnga is being designed to align with the Framework to Build a Green Prairie Economy. It is grounded in respect for the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of the Prairies to set their own economic priorities and pursue their visions for economic prosperity. Broadening these conversations to include a variety of voices is one way in which we aim to contribute to growing a green economy that works for everyone.

Strengthening Relationships

Moving forward together to build resilient and thriving northern food systems will see continued, meaningful engagement with partners and stakeholders under this framework. Changing how we engage with each other, and how we work together is, in itself, a major objective. 

Advancing Economic Reconciliation

Growing Food Sector Entrepreneurship

Niriqatiginnga works to incubate Indigenous early career exposure, cultural entrepreneurship training and capacity building for the Manitoba agri-food and food production sectors.

Anticipated Impacts and Outcomes

Niriqatiginnga is an experimental, emergent program. Our goal is to develop a prototype program, which can be replicated in both urban, rural and remote areas. 

The project aims to have impacts ranging across the Manitoba agri-food and food sectors. Demands on food security programs in several northern communities is high, and while there are great ideas, a current lack of resources, capacity and infrastructure makes it difficult for communities and partners to implement or sustain programs. 

Key outcomes include addressing a lack of community-level data and capacity for understanding and optimizing supply chains for northern Manitoba communities. Food insecurity is a critical issue requiring urgent attention. Data analysis and technology adoption will facilitate connecting producers and businesses with northern community programs and optimize supply chains.

Improved community capacity and market expansion opportunities

The program builds capacity to develop and sustain new partnerships for market expansion. Outcomes will see increased relationship building and trust in government agencies and with NGOs, and deepen positive relationships with community and agri-food/food industry businesses. Outcomes include improved outreach and collaboration with community stakeholders across the North and South, and across the agri-food industry as a whole.

Improved capacity for Impact measurement and evaluation: 

Using qualitative and quantitative data, robust metrics and evaluation frameworks will be designed to measure impacts on food insecurity, community health, and economic reconciliation. Increased capacity to sustain ongoing data collection, analysis and reporting, and training community members to solicit feedback and effectiveness.

Increased community and industry advocacy for policy change: 

The project will drive more equitable and sustainable northern food supply chains and access to healthy foods. This outcome will see improved community capacity and collaboration for reliable, verifiable and data-driven, evidence-based information to increase advocacy for policy changes at the local, regional, and national levels.

Hosted every two years in Winnipeg by the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce, Northern Perspectives 2024 is a business and cultural showcase of Nunavut with focus on expanding the economic opportunities within Nunavut and partnership opportunities with businesses from Manitoba.

We’re really excited to have our session proposal accepted for the Arctic Congress 2024 in Bodø, Norway. Our upcoming session is titled “Niriqatiginnga: Fostering Food Security and Innovation for Northern Supply Chains.” We’ll have more details in early 2024. 

Thank you to our partners and supporters

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our generous partners, sponsors and supporters for making Niriqatiginnga possible and contributing to the success of our initiative.