Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit July 26, 2012 - 7:23 am

Online organic food shop in Ottawa to try weekly Iqaluit markets

Entrepreneur will use Nutrition North to fly produce north

SAMANTHA DAWSON

After reading about Nunavut’s recent food price protests, Kate Zhang, owner of the Ottawa-based organic food delivery service, Eco Produce, plans to test a weekly food market in Iqaluit using Nutrition North approved fresh produce, starting at the Iqaluit country food market in August.

Her idea is to create a year-round fresh produce food market, as frequently as once a week.

“The idea is really to bring the price down, I feel like that could be done. There’s definitely going to be a way,” Zhang said, adding that it was “pretty shocking” to see the current prices of food in Iqaluit.

“There’s definitely something I could do,” the entrepreneur said.

“Iqaluit is the first step, and if that works well, I will be happy to bring the concept to other northern regions.”

The August visit will be a test run, using the country food market is a starting point.

“That would be the best scenario,” said Zhang, who already has customers in Iqaluit and is in contact with Iqaluit’s once-monthly country food market. 

Zhang started her company about a year ago. A year later, when she brought her idea to Nutrition North, she wasn’t sure if they would accept it.

This was after a customer in Iqaluit emailed her to suggest she bring her business North, saying the city needs healthy organic food.

“They loved the idea. It bridged the gap between having to order online,” she said.

At first, Zhang said wanted to open a store in Iqaluit, but knew that the operating costs would make the idea too expensive.

Now, her goal is to “really bring the price down,” and too keep everything as simple as possible within her market program idea.

She began researching information on how to deal with airlines.

“I realized that there were a lot of logistical problems,” she said.

In the South, Sunday markets are common and it’s a good concept to bring north, she said.

The market itself would eventually include art work and other wares, “a mixture of everything.” 

Zhang has never been to Iqaluit, but views it as a potential market for her business.

But being based in Ottawa, Zhang plans to employ students to help her build a team in Iqaluit.

The other challenge is the weather, because Zhang does not want produce to freeze while in transit.

“There’s definitely challenges there,” she said.

It is hard to say how much produce her company would ship to Iqaluit by air. But after September, Zhang said she will have a fairly good estimate.

Any surplus or leftovers would be donated to the Iqaluit food bank, she said. 

Another idea is to ask the middle school about ordering fresh vegetables for their cafeteria, Zhang said.

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