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Agriculture is a growth industry in every sense and that means economic growth in Alberta.

Farming and ranching have always been staples of the Alberta economy and the province has a global reputation for top-quality products and excellence in food safety and sustainability. Now, Calgary and southern Alberta are an emerging centre for all aspects of agribusiness.

At a time when Canada’s energy sector is desperate for access to global markets, agriculture is already export-oriented and tied into supply chains worldwide.

Alberta agriculture and agri-food products are exported to 140 countries.

However, Albertans aren’t content to simply be hewers of wood, drawers of water or even reapers of crops. There’s a growing opportunity to do more – to develop and manufacture value-added products for consumers – to grow and diversify the sector.

Innovations around crop sciences and livestock are creating business opportunities and agribusiness is a key sector in the 10-year economic strategy for Calgary Building on our Energy that supports growth and diversification.

Food processing and manufacturing employees about 18,600 Albertans and accounts for more than 20 per cent of all manufacturing in the province. A 23.4 per cent increase in sales in 2015 – the most in two decades – meant Alberta contributed $13.6 billion to Canada’s $95.7 billion in food manufacturing sales, third after only Ontario and Quebec.

The top exports were wheat, beef, canola seed, live cattle and pork. Almost 40 per cent of exports went to the United States, followed by China, Japan  and Mexico.

With a record of success in value-added food and beverage processing and excellence in crop science and animal genetics as well as emerging fields such as agri-technologies and agri-finance, Calgary has the foundation to support a prosperous industry for decades.

There are numerous business advantages that attract companies to Calgary. Here are five of the most prominent in the agriculture sector:

  • Proximity to high-value farm land: Irrigation is distinguishing feature of agriculture in southern Alberta and enables cultivation of specialty products such as hybrid canola seeds, sugar beets or potatoes.
  • Anchor firms/ skilled workforce: Global leaders such as Dow AgroSciences, Bayer Crop Science, Agrium, Old Dutch and Sofina Foods have operations here and local post-secondary institutions offer education in horticulture, food safety, livestock genetics, crop science, and veterinary sciences.
  • Distribution advantages: Distribution centers in Calgary can reach 4 million consumers in a one-day round trip by truck and 16 million within a one-day, one-direction trip. Intermodal facilities for two Class 1 railways and Canada’s fourth busiest airport provide access to consumer markets worldwide.
  • Research and innovation: Alberta is a leader in agricultural research 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: Agri-food is the largest manufacturing category in Alberta and Calgary has a mix of multinationals, mid-size companies and niche food and beverage processing and manufacturing companies. Global meat processors Cargill and JBS Food Canada have large operations in southern Alberta.

Times change in all industries but the opportunities for growth by innovative agribusiness companies are clearly deep-rooted in Alberta.

BY Stephen Ewart

Manager, Research & Strategy

Research & Strategy

Stephen joined our Communications team in 2016 from the Calgary Herald where he was a columnist on the energy industry. He had previously worked in communications roles with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Cenovus Energy, Encana and Precision Drilling and in journalism with The Canadian Press and the Telegraph-Journal in New Brunswick.

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