Norges Vel is working with sustainable business development within agriculture, aquaculture, and renewable energy. The goal is to promote thriving local communities through utilising resources and make sure that the value created is invested locally. The methods used are the same as during the founding in 1809: Cooperation, sharing of knowledge and business development.
Thriving local communities are about having a population and employment opportunities in the area where people live and feel at home. For many communities depopulation is an issue. Places of employment get closed, local businesses get bought up and local production gets outsourced to low cost countries, and revenue is then taken out of the region.
Climate change is pushing the need for more sustainable businesses that can take over from the petroleum industry. This requires restructuring, and Norges Vel sees that greener businesses like agriculture and renewable energy will be creating employment opportunities and revenue for communities in the future.
Local business development and wealth creation
Norges Vel contributes to creating business out of the unique facets of each community, whether it be local delicacies, crafts or authentic experiences. The goal is to use all the resources in the community and ensure that the wealth created is invested locally.
One of Norges Vel's biggest areas of development in recent years has been algae farming. This is something that could grow to become a profitable and environmentally friendly business with jobs all along the coastline of Norway, especially since kelp farming is booming. Scientists are of the opinion that by 2050 the amount of Norwegian kelp harvested annually could reach 20 million tonnes, which would have a value of 40 billion kroner. Algae culture can therefore become a vital supply chain in the bio-economy of Norway's future.
Another important project for Norges Vel is transforming companies of artisans into tourist attractions - Économusées. To experience «Artisans at work», these can give traditional crafts new life. By way of an exhibition centre, visitors could see the craft in action and buy the product in the same place. Today most of the économusées are in the west, but we have a goal of establishing a countrywide network of exciting tourist destinations. The concept that has originated from Canada contributes to increased revenue and profitability of companies in the network.
Using all resources
Norges Vel helps founders utilise local and unused resources to create new businesses and employment. Reuse and recycling contributes to a sustainable circular economy that benefits the environment in both the short and long term. The circular economy builds on the concept of material recovery in a cycle with minimised resource waste instead of the more traditional use and discard mentality.
Together with entrepreneurs Norges Vel contributes to creating a bio-economy for the agricultural sector, so that we can turn an environmental problem into a business opportunity. Waste from bio-gas facilities and fish slurry from aquaculture can become environmentally friendly fertilizers, wood from logging and husks left over from rapeseed oil production can be used as animal feed. Bio-coal can capture greenhouse gases whilst simultaneously contributing to better soil and harvests.
Integration through work
Communities are a hotbed for diversity and integration, and the entry into Norwegian society is often through the workforce. Politically there is a focus on getting as many immigrants as possible into employment, and reports show that too few are finding employment. Many refugees and immigrants lack Norwegian language skills and an completed education or work experiece. This stops them from getting a job quickly and there are not many job opportunities that cater to their needs.
One area of focus for Norges Vel is integration of immigrants through work training. A concept Norges Vel has is a works training program directed toward working in the food industry combined with basic Norwegian language lessons, this is something we do multiple places nationally. Experience from Skedsmo municipality shows that a large proportion of female immigrants who have been through the program have shown quick progression in language and food qualifications, and are now employed or in work experience.
To be successful with the development of local and regional businesses, a partnership between the business sector, municipalities and the scientific community about research and competency development is vital. Norges Vel often takes the role of being the link that connects these sectors when they work together.
We want farmers and primary producers to be able to own a larger portion of the supply chain. This often happens through binding cooperative solutions between a group of farmers. Norges Vel has taken the initiative on multiple such endeavours where farmers have entered an agreement so as to create their own supply chain, an example is barley for food and rapeseed oil.
Green entrepreneurship leads to a green shift
Climate change with draughts and unstable weather will be a challenge for Norwegian agriculture. A restructuring is required for both the climate and to create new sustainable places of employment in Norwegian society.
To initiate a green shift there must be a transition to products and services that have a much smaller impact on the environment than those used today. There is a need for new climate friendly energy sources and production methods. We have to rethink so a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will create new opportunities locally.