More farmers are going high-tech to remain productive and competitive. Alberta Innovates acts as a bridge between technology and agriculture.
Alberta has long been one of Canada’s major food producers. The province’s diverse landscapes, variety of soil types, and mostly sunny climate offer ideal conditions for growing grains and pulses and raising livestock.
Complementing the primary crop and livestock industries are a strong value-added food processing sector and a burgeoning technology sector. “Smart technologies can be used to increase food supply, reduce the cost of production, and address labour shortages. Adoption of these technologies is only going to grow as we learn more about how they can better support farm operations,” says Natisha Stashko, PhD, Executive Director of Smart Agriculture and Food at Alberta Innovates, a provincial agency that advances research and innovation in Alberta.
The agri-food industry is a significant economic driver for the province, generating more than $30 billion in sales and $12.4 billion in exports of primary and processed agriculture and food products in 2020, according to statistics compiled by the provincial government. As a sector that already employs nearly 70,000 people and contributes $9.68 billion to the provincial GDP, agri-food will continue to play a lead role in Alberta’s economy going forward.
We’re focused on the future of the industry and what we need to do to keep the agriculture sector strong and growing.
Today’s producers are moving farming into the future
Today’s farmers are very different from those of past generations. New technologies, products, and services are helping to revamp farm operations. Smart agriculture is about introducing new methods, processes, and tools such as artificial intelligence, digital solutions, and automation — things like drones, sensors, blockchain, and automated farm equipment — to make the industry more competitive, efficient, and sustainable.
Alberta Innovates is playing a key role in supporting research and innovation in agriculture through its Smart Agriculture and Food program, and helping to accelerate the development of smart technologies to address major global food challenges to nourish a growing world population. It’s also working to improve climate change resilience and develop agile and adaptable supply chains.
“We’re focused on the future of the industry and what we need to do to keep the agriculture sector strong and growing,” says Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates. “We work to support that innovation journey from the idea stage right through to commercialization, and help to grow and scale those efforts here in the province and across Canada.”
Advancing innovation through pan-Canadian collaboration
Through funding and collaboration with groups such as the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) and others, Alberta Innovates provides opportunities to create the national partnerships necessary for Alberta’s high-tech agricultural transformation.
CAAIN is advancing Canada’s agricultural and food technology system by funding innovation and connecting agri-food businesses to academia, research institutions, and technology companies. “We’re the result of the collaboration of eight founding partners, including Alberta Innovates, to whose leadership we owe a debt of gratitude for their ongoing support and unwavering belief in the value of our mission,” says Kerry Wright, the CEO of CAAIN.
Alberta Innovates has been supporting research and innovation throughout much of the province’s history. Originally founded in 1921 as the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta (SIRCA), Alberta Innovates is celebrating its centennial year. In a fitting tribute to the role that agriculture has played over the past century in helping to build the province, Alberta Innovates is now helping to shape the industry’s role in the future.
“Agriculture continues to be a cornerstone of the Alberta economy so we’re contributing to a very important sector in our province,” says Stashko.