A $3.2-million forest research lab being built in Sussex is expected to create better quality, insect-tolerant, resilient seedlings for planting across the region.

It could lead to higher-value Canadian planted trees and much faster regeneration of managed forests, federal, provincial and J.D. Irving Limited officials announced on Friday.

Rob Moore spoke at the Sussex forest research lab announcement

Rob Moore, minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, spoke at the research lab announcement in Sussex on behalf of federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

The new facility, which will be operated by Maritime Innovation Limited, a division of JDI, will produce four million seedlings a year by the plant reproduction method called somatic embryogenesis (SE).

SE is a leading-edge biotechnology that enables rapid development of high-value tree varieties, integrating growth and quality, as well as disease and insect resistance through exploitation of natural variability, officials said.

The lab will also produce naturally occurring fungi, which produce chemical compounds that improve the host tree’s tolerance of attack by insects, such as the spruce budworm, and diseases, such as white pine blister rust.

Construction of the 7,200 square foot mechanized facility at the existing Sussex tree nursery is scheduled to begin later this month, creating 36 direct and indirect jobs.

Once complete, the laboratory will employ two new people over the next two years and create at least five more jobs within the next four to five years.

Natural Resources Canada is investing $982,000 in the project, while ACOA is providing a $1.4 million repayable loan.

The New Brunswick government has contributed $500,000.

“This seedling technology project at J.D. Irving Limited in Sussex will help New Brunswick’s forestry industry become more competitive and sustain more jobs in our communities," said Premier David Alward.