Agriculture has been a staple of the Alberta economy for well over a century. Today, production and export of primary commodities and value-added products are vital to the province and Calgary has emerged as a centre for agribusiness.
Alberta has a diverse landscape that’s ideal for growing grains, oilseeds and other crops as well as raising livestock. Alberta has more cattle than any other province. Agri-foods accounted for more than 20 per cent of total manufacturing in Alberta in 2015 and – with a global reputation for top-quality goods and excellence in food safety – products are exported to 140 countries.
Agribusiness is a key sector for growth under the 10-year economic strategy for Calgary Building on our Energy. Significant opportunities exist for businesses in areas as diverse as value-added food and meat processing and manufacturing, crop sciences and animal genetics, beverage manufacturing, agri-technologies, and agri-finance and business services.
Proximity to high-value farm land: Alberta is one of the largest farm centres of Canada, accounting for over one-fifth of the Canadian total. One distinguishing feature of southern Alberta agriculture is irrigated farm land. There are 12 irrigation districts that enable cultivation of specialty products such as hybrid canola seed, sugar beets or potatoes.
Distribution advantages: Distribution centers in Calgary can reach 4 million consumers in a one-day round trip and 16 million within a one-day, one-direction truck trip. Intermodal facilities for two Class 1 railways and Canada’s fourth busiest airport provide efficient access to consumer markets worldwide. YYC is Alberta’s air cargo hub with direct service to Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Anchor firms/ skilled workforce: Multinational industry leaders including Dow AgroSciences, Bayer Crop Science, Agrium, Old Dutch, Cargill and Sofina Foods. have major operations here and local post-secondary institutions offer education and specialized research in areas including horticulture, food safety and quality, livestock genetics, crop science, and veterinary sciences.
Research and innovation: Alberta is a leader in agricultural research in Canada with almost two dozen universities, colleges and specialized institutes focused on innovation and advancing science and technology around livestock, field crops, food processing and food safety.
Proven food processing capacity: Food manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alberta and Calgary is home to multinationals, medium-sized and niche food and beverage processing and manufacturing companies. Global meat processors including Cargill and JBS Food Canada have large operations in southern.
Alberta ranked third among Canadian provinces following Ontario and Quebec and contributed $13.6 billion to overall total Canadian food manufacturing sales of $95.7billion in 2015.Thevalue-added food processing and manufacturing sector employees about 18,600 people in Alberta each year.
Alberta is the third largest exporter of agri-food products after Saskatchewan and Ontario, accounting for 18 per cent of Canadian total in 2015. Favorable livestock prices and relatively low Canadian dollar contributed to export growth in recent years as increases were also reported in primary commodities and value-added processed products.
Alberta is the beef processing centre of Canada and leads the country in livestock, cattle and calf market receipts.
Southern Alberta is also a major growing area for pulse crops including field peas, dry beans, chickpeas, lentils and fava beans. Canada accounts for about 35 per cent of the global supply of pulse crops and more than 85 per cent of production is exported to markets such as India and Bangladesh.
Alberta is home to key ingredients used in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as wheat, barley and malt. The manufacturing sector focuses on fruit and vegetable juices, soft drinks, flavoured water and sport drinks as well as the manufacturing and distilling of alcoholic beverages such as beers, spirits, wines.
The beverage industry represented 6.8 percent of total food and beverage sales in 2015 in Alberta with craft and premium beers, premium spirits, cottage winemakers, energy and sport drinks, ready-to-drink products and medicinal / mineral botanical nectars the primary products. Alberta has experienced rapid growth in micro-brewing and local distilleries.
The province has one of the highest return rates for beverage container in North America. In 2016, the province reached its goal of an 85 per cent return rate for the recycling industry.
This sub-sector of the industry is focused on the development of new seeds and crops, with enhanced health, disease resistance and yield capabilities. It includes the production of seed, soil, pesticides and fertilizer products relevant to growing.
Innovation in soil, feed and genetically modified crops or breeding technologies are primarily driven by growers’ desire for higher yields. Significant research is also being devoted to nutritional enhancements of core crops to meet consumer preferences.
Development of disease- and drought-resistant crops and broader impacts of climate change will drive innovation and new product offerings in the sector.
Development of products related to veterinary health of animals for food and breeding including the collection, distribution and sale of animal genetics is driving innovation and science around veterinary health of animals for food, and collection sale of animal genetics
Firms in this sector market premium products that command premium prices on global markets due to the strong genetic profile of Alberta animals. Canada exported more than $300 million in animal exports in 2105, with Alberta accounting for 40% of the country’s exports.
With its proximity to farm land and transportation links, Calgary has specialized capabilities in animal in-vitro fertilization, embryo collection and transfer, and genetic material storage that has created a global market for animal genetics with a specialty in cows, bulls and studs.
Agri-technologies includes the development, design, testing and production of specialized software and hardware to support core agricultural activities. They enable critical functions including plant, animal health monitoring, inventory/product management, aerial weather and field monitoring, biometric and food safety quality testing.
Precision agriculture is the future for the industry and Alberta farmers are adopting new technologies to grow new crops or significantly improve their products or processes.
Opportunities also exist in areas such as digital farming, unmanned aerial vehicles, food and beverage automation technologies, vertical farming and in-land fish farming.
Agri-finance and business services includes specialized financial, business and consulting services that enable critical financing, business transactions, management, and investment to expand and diversify the agribusiness sector. Service providers such as banks and law firms have specialized staff or expertise in agribusiness, as well as agricultural specific financial products and services.
Calgary has an exceptional financial services sector ranking 28th on the list of Global Financial Centres in 2016. It is a leading financial centre in Western Canada with almost 1,350 specialized financial services businesses located here including support functions such IT, accounting and insurance services.
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