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.