It’s often written that the food industry is recession-proof because, well, people need to eat and there’s some proof to support that notion in one of Alberta’s foundational industries — agriculture. At $14.8 billion, Alberta’s total farm cash receipts (FCR) from 2019 were the highest on record and 9.8 percent above 2018. Alberta accounted for 22.5 percent of total FCR in all of Canada in 2019, the most of any province, and led the country in cattle and calf market receipts at $5.2 billion.
By the Numbers
- $26,300 Number of Albertans employed in the agriculture and agri-food sector
- $11.6 billion Alberta exports of primary and processed agriculture and agri-food products
- 22+ Research and innovation facilities in the province specializing in crops and cereals, poultry and swine, agronomy, biomaterials and food safety
- 40,000+ Number of farms in Alberta with an average size of 1,237 acres
Source: Government of Alberta
While an ideal mix of warm days and cool nights, abundant sunshine and extensive irrigation infrastructure are a boon to farm operators, the whole industry offers so much more. Food and beverage processing on the agri-food side of the sector is Alberta’s largest manufacturing employer, accounting for $15.2 billion in manufacturing sales. With a high-quality supply of primary products and activity in a wide range of food processing activities, the future is bright for this sector.
Hemp Producers Getting Innovative New Agri-Food Complex
A massive 88-acre agri-food park development is slated to begin construction in 2021 in Vegreville, a town of about 5,700 people that’s approximately 100 kilometres east of Edmonton. The agri-food park is a $10 million project being built to support the province’s hemp innovators. More than $8 million of the funding for the project is from the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, which will supply Alberta with $3.65 billion between 2018 and 2028.
High Throughput Grain Elevator Slated for Northern Alberta
Richardson Pioneer Limited replaced its northernmost grain elevator in 2020 with a new facility that includes 32,000 metric tonnes of storage space and is capable of loading 135 cars through a loop track design. The new elevator in High Level, a town of approximately 3,900 people that’s situated more than 700 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, replaced a 6,500 metric tonne wooden crib elevator.
Two World-Class Programs Designed to Support Ag Innovation
The Alberta government runs two programs designed to help entrepreneurs build capabilities and succeed in the agri-food industry: the Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) and the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator (APBI).
The FPDC is a 65,000 sq ft pilot plant and product development laboratory equipped with over $20 million in equipment that supports food product innovation along the full development and commercialization continuum. Clients can access applied research, technical consultation, benchtop development, pilot plant development, sensory evaluation and interim processing services.
The APBI is a multi-tenant facility that meets federal food-regulation requirements, enabling resident companies to market their products nationally and internationally. It provides the infrastructure and services to support the establishment and growth of new companies and new business ventures in Alberta through: assisting with the start-up of new food businesses, providing a centre of excellence for agri-value venture scale-up, and attracting product/process development initiatives of established food industry companies to Alberta.