Province launching new centre for agritech innovation
July 21, 2022
ABBOTSFORD – A new B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation will further position the province as a world leader in agricultural technology, helping to improve food security in B.C. and around the world, while creating hundreds of good-paying jobs.
A key commitment of the StrongerBC Economic Plan, the new centre will be located at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Surrey campus. The centre will bring together academia, government and industry partners (known as the triple-helix model) to create more productive, diverse and resilient food-supply chains.
“The past two years have been challenging ones for British Columbians as the pandemic, climate-related emergencies and global conflicts have disrupted supply chains and raised the cost of food,” said Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Launching this BC Centre for Agritech Innovation will improve productivity here in B.C., meaning more food will be grown closer to home, leading to lower costs associated with transporting food. Simply put, this centre makes us a global front-runner in agritech.”
The Province is investing as much as $6.5 million over three years for the centre, while the federal government is providing as much as $10 million over five years through Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan).
The centre, which will officially open in September, has begun taking applications from small and medium-sized agritech operations throughout the province. The centre will focus on developing, testing and piloting solutions in simulated and real-world environments to be farm-ready for commercialization. Key components of the centre will be to create economic opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and help small and medium-sized agritech businesses scale up, increase profits and create good-paying jobs.
“PacifiCan is committed to supporting innovative partnerships that help B.C. agritech companies commercialize their technologies and create cleaner, more productive agriculture, food and seafood industries,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, federal Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada. “Investments in high-growth industries, such as the agritech sector, help develop skills and local talent, positioning British Columbia as a world-leader in innovation.”
This investment is expected to create nearly 200 jobs and help train more than 700 workers, while adding 30 new agritech projects throughout the province by 2025, using the skill sets of B.C.’s world-class post-secondary institutions, including SFU, the University of the Fraser Valley, Thompson Rivers University, the University of Northern B.C. and the University of Victoria.
“Our government is working hard to strengthen food security and build a resilient provincial food system, and the new centre will be another piece in the puzzle that will help drive transformation in the agriculture and food sector,” said Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture and Food. “By bringing together regenerative agriculture practices and agritech, we are aiming to increase sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing farm profitability and creating more job opportunities.”
The centre builds on previous and existing provincial supports for this emerging sector, including the BC Agritech Concierge Program, the Agritech Grant Program and the Canada/BC Agri-Innovation Program. By bringing these partners together, the centre will also further support the work the Province is leading to build the Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech Network (RAAN).
Through the Agritech Grant Program, the Province has provided $7.5 million to help 21 agritech companies develop technology to improve productivity and food security.
This year, Kahlon and Popham signed an agreement between the Province of B.C. and the Netherlands to help further secure British Columbia’s food supply by developing agritech opportunities in both jurisdictions. This action plan focuses on specific strategies to further collaboration between the government, science, academia and companies in B.C. and the Netherlands.
The StrongerBC Economic Plan moves British Columbia forward by tackling the challenges of today while growing an economy that works for everyone. The long-term plan builds on B.C.’s strong economic recovery and works to address two long-standing challenges – inequality and climate change – by closing the skills gap, building resilient communities and helping businesses and people transition to clean-energy solutions. The plan sets two main goals for the province: inclusive growth and clean growth, and puts forward six missions to keep B.C. on track.
Learn more about the major partnerships with the Netherlands: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022JERI0024-000801
Learn more about regulatory changes to the Agriculture Land Reserve Use Regulation: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022AFF0008-000249
Learn more about the StrongerBC Economic Plan: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/plan
Learn more about the Advisory Group on Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022AF0043-000949
Learn more about the Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech Network: https://news.gov.bc.ca/25034
Learn more about PacifiCan’s $11.8-million investment into support for local innovators:
Two backgrounders follow.
Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation
What people are saying about the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation
Joy Johnson, president and vice-chancellor, Simon Fraser University (SFU) –
“The B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation will directly improve the lives of people across the province by accelerating the research and development of new technologies in the agritech space – and ultimately creating stronger, more sustainable food systems in our region. SFU is proud to lead the centre in collaboration with our partners in academia, industry and government, and I am thrilled to see the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation providing strong support for this important work.”
Lilian Yang, PhD student, geography, Simon Fraser University –
“As an SFU PhD student, and someone who believes that the challenges of agritech research rely on collaborative environments and fresh perspectives, I am confident that the centre will provide students with opportunities to gain real-world experience with professionals outside of the academic sphere and produce new generations of capable and well-rounded scientists.”
Garry Fehr, associate vice-president, research, engagement, and graduate studies, University of the Fraser Valley –
“I am very pleased to see this investment in agritech, as this initiative will enable researchers to work with industry to enhance food security by addressing the uncertainty of climate change, a limited food-production land base and shortages of agricultural labour with innovations in agritech.”
Bill Vanderkooi, general manager and founder, Bakerview EcoDairy –
“We’re excited to see this investment in the agritech field. Agritech is all about finding innovative ways to make farming more efficient and sustainable and reimagining a new future for the agriculture industry.”
Henry Braun, mayor of Abbotsford –
“The city of Abbotsford has the most productive agricultural land in Canada on a per-hectare basis and November’s catastrophic flooding event, along with the Highway 1 and U.S./Canada border crossing closures and resulting supply-chain interruptions are reminders of how important agriculture and food security is. The City of Abbotsford is grateful to the Province for launching the new B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation, and for making long-term investments in this vital industry. It’s our city’s hope that this centre will be a key support toward a productive, sustainable and efficient food-supply system for our communities and all the people of this province.”
Kelli Paddon, MLA for Chilliwack-Kent –
“Having reliable, sustainable and local food production options is incredibly important, and there is nowhere in the province like the Fraser Valley to grow, raise and produce the food that will nourishes British Columbians. This centre will help strengthen food security across the province for years to come.”
Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission –
“We are constantly evolving, and right here in British Columbia some of the brightest minds are creating new technologies to help keep our agriculture sector thriving and ensure food security for British Columbians. I’m thrilled to see the support for the new BC Centre for Agritech Innovation and cannot wait to see (or eat) what comes out of the research and training the centre will provide!”
Megan Dykeman, MLA for Langley-East –
“As a farmer, I know the hard work that goes into agriculture and as we saw this past November, unpredictable factors like weather can greatly affect food production. Our government knows how important it is to our food security to be able to continue to grow and produce food at home, notwithstanding the challenges of changing climate and consequences, such as flooding. That is one reason why our government is investing in the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation.”
Dan Coulter, MLA for Chilliwack –
“The Fraser Valley is a hub for innovation, and the growing range of diverse agritech companies and projects stationed here shows that. This agritech centre will not only help with sustainable food production here in British Columbia, but will also create jobs and opportunities for even further innovation.”
Pam Alexis, MLA for Abbotsford-Mission –
“Our agritech sector is already full of incredibly innovative and passionate people, and it’s ready to boom. This centre, working with our post-secondary institutions, government and industry will help British Columbia’s agriculture technology businesses thrive, help bring good, local, affordable food to the table and solidify B.C. as a global leader in agritech.”
Andrew Mercier, MLA for Langley –
“Families want to put affordable, sustainable and local food on the table, and the new B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation is going to help make sure that we are keeping up with the technology and techniques to keep growing great food for British Columbians.”
Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation
Facts about agritech in B.C.
- B.C. has more than 150 agritech companies, in areas such as food processing, precision agriculture, bioproducts, food safety/traceability and soil/crop technology.
- B.C. has an agritech land strategy that builds on recommendations made in 2019 by the Food Security Task Force to review land-use planning policies and regulations to ensure B.C.’s agritech sector has a place to grow.
- The BC Centre for Agritech Innovation will support projects for small to medium-sized businesses from start to finish, including:
- access and use of labs and testing spaces;
- subject matter or technical expertise;
- additional staff for projects;
- project-specific consultants;
- materials needed; and
- support programs.
- The criteria for projects to be accepted include:
- The company has at least four, but fewer than 100, employees.
- The company must be a private corporation, incorporated and headquartered in B.C.
- The company must have been in operation for at least two years with a clear plan for business scale-up.
- The project must be related to agriculture, agri-technology and agri-foods and have the potential to be commercialized within 12 to 24 months.
Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation