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ACOA cash helping Mahone Bay business create country’s first certified tick repellent

Cutline: Amanda Veinotte-Tanner (left) and Lisa Ali-Learning, AtlanTick Repellent Products CEO and founder, pose in the business’ Mahone Bay office. Ali-Learning said the ACOA grant has allowed the business to employ four people.
Amanda Veinotte-Tanner (left) and Lisa Ali-Learning, AtlanTick Repellent Products CEO and founder, pose in the business’ Mahone Bay office. Ali-Learning said the ACOA grant has allowed the business to employ four people. - Josh Healey

'Ticks are only going to get worse’

Lisa Ali-Learning and her family live in the heart of tick country.

Lisa Ali-Learning started her business AtlanTick Repellent Products after her sons, Darian and Lucas, contracted Lyme disease over two years ago. - Facebook
Lisa Ali-Learning started her business AtlanTick Repellent Products after her sons, Darian and Lucas, contracted Lyme disease over two years ago. - Facebook

And like many along the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Lyme disease has touched her personally: her sons, Darian and Lucas, both contracted the disease around two years ago.

The boys went undiagnosed for months as neither developed the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash or other typical Lyme symptoms.

“My oldest couldn’t walk for a period of time,” recounted Ali-Learning, who lives in Mahone Bay. “It was really scary.”

She said the feeling of helplessness drove her to act, causing her to explore the effects of natural oils on ticks.

That led to her founding AtlanTick Repellent Products, which produces a natural tick spray, in October 2016.

The business has grown and currently distributes products across Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

“I think it’s important to offer people a natural product that has actually been tested to the equivalent the (other) products have been tested,” explained Ali-Learning.

She originally started with three sprays and partnered with Acadia University to test their effectiveness.

Through testing, she narrowed down her products to one lemongrass spray, which is effective 80 to 85 per cent of the time.

Ali-Learning added because the spray is classified as a cosmetic product, it is not subject to federal regulatory approval.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Ali-Learning is working towards producing the country’s first natural certified tick repellent.

She said this new repellent is 97.5 per cent effective.

“Currently, we don’t have anything like that on the Canadian market,” she said.

On a good day, Lisa Ali-Learning estimated the business can produce 700 or 800 bottles of their natural tick spray. - Josh Healey
On a good day, Lisa Ali-Learning estimated the business can produce 700 or 800 bottles of their natural tick spray. - Josh Healey

Ali-Learning added that the grant money will help fund more research at Acadia but the repellent likely wouldn’t be ready for another two years.

Still, the grant has helped AtlanTick to employ four people in Mahone Bay; funds are also being designated to start a tick app to help identify where people come in contact with them.

And although it's been difficult, Ali-Learning said she and her business partner, Nancy Thompson, have remained passionate about Lyme prevention.

“It’s not something you want to mess around with,” she said, noting Thompson has been dealing with Lyme disease for over a decade. “It’s such a serious disease.”

In Ali-Learning’s own family, her son Darian is now Lyme free; her youngest, Lucas, is expected to again be tested in a few weeks.

But her fight is not over; she’s committed to raising awareness about the seriousness of Lyme disease.

“Ticks are only going to get worse,” she said.

And thanks to AtlanTick, there’s a spray that can help with that.

joshua.rj.healey@gmail.com

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