New online network connects natural users

A new online networking website is connecting producers, consumers and researchers of small-scale natural resources

A new online networking website is connecting producers, consumers and researchers of small-scale natural resources.

The Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology at Royal Roads University launched the Rural Opportunities Network in October, in partnership with a number of other agencies from across the country.

Tim Brigham, project co-manager and co-ordinator for education and sector support for the centre, said the project’s focus is to provide information for and create awareness of small businesses focused on natural resources, on a variety of scales.

“This could be anything from non-timber forest product-based industries … right through to people doing small scale saw milling and even growing niche crops,” Brigham said. “Basically we’re trying to serve what we still see as an under-served area.”

The website allows businesses to register and share information about their business. Businesses, researchers or consumers can also search the network to connect with members across the country. Products either wanted or for sale can also be listed on the site.

Although it’s early days Brigham said quite a few businesses have signed up for the free service. The project reflects the mandate of the university to have practical, applicable projects, said Brigham. RRU hosts the website.

The network is national and bilingual to help include people and businesses in Quebec.

The crew at RRU took the project through research, development and working with a web designer to bring the idea to life. Advisors from across the country helped with the development of the idea, including small business owners.

Eric Whitehead owns Untamed Feast, a wild mushroom supplier based out of Crofton, and Wild Trader, an online classified platform for wild products. Whitehead helped with the network as an advisor and now uses it for business.

Whitehead said the new network will give greater opportunities for people in remote locations to develop natural resource based businesses and allow them to not have to move to a commercial centre to survive.

“The whole concept, which is pretty exciting, empowers people,” Whitehead said. “Just from seeing that there are all these opportunities and all these links to all these micro and small enterprises. …They can see some opportunity and they might choose to stay and better their community.”

To explore the network visit ruralnetwork.ca.