Growing the future of food

Alberta is expanding its agricultural sector through innovation, technology and the development of new bio-based products

Alberta has long been an agricultural powerhouse. The development of earlier-maturing wheat varieties in the early 1900s helped establish crop farming in the province — and we’ve been innovating ever since. Alberta’s agricultural industry is developing new technologies to increase production, improve efficiencies and create high-quality, value-added products. Alberta is also home to global agribusinesses who are leading the transformation of sustainable food and environmental stewardship.

As a leading producer of canola, wheat, dry peas, barley and cattle, Alberta farmers are growing their food processing capabilities. The province’s arable lands, abundance of sunshine and extensive irrigation networks make it an ideal place to produce agricultural products. Global connectivity and business-friendly policies open tremendous opportunities for agriculture processing facilities to establish Alberta as their North America hub.

Photo Credit: © Travel Alberta by Dan Schyk 

Alberta Stories

Lovingly Made Ingredients

PRIMARY AND VALUE-ADDED EXPORTS

Alberta produces and exports a significant amount of high-quality primary and processed agriculture products. The province’s crop sector is highly diversified including wheat, oats, barley, canola, pulses and more. In 2020, agricultural exports totalled over $12.4 billion — with $5.8 billion in primary agricultural products and $6.7 billion in value-added products.

As Canada’s leading beef-producing province, Alberta is also a significant exporter of beef and live cattle.

Alberta’s agricultural sector is foundational to the province’s economy — contributing $9.68 billion in GDP in 2020 and employing over 69,800 Albertans. The province offers high-quality primary products and is the third largest exporter of agri-food products in Canada.

ALBERTA’S SHARE OF PRODUCTION FOR SELECTED CROPS

Firms operating in Alberta have preferred market access to 49 countries representing approximately 1.5 billion consumers with a combined GDP of $49.3 trillion USD. The province also boasts a reliable and efficient transportation system.

Canada is the World’sAlberta Produces (2020)Alberta Exports
(2020)
#1 exporter of canola seed27.84% of Canada’s canola (5.2 million tonnes)$1.71 billion
#3 exporter of wheat31.38% of Canada’s wheat (11 million tonnes)$2.32 billion
#1 exporter of dry peas28.0% of Canada’s pulses (peas, beans, faba beans, chick peas and lentils at 2.3 million tonnes)$214.16 billion
#5 exporter of barley49.19% of Canada’s barley (5.3 Million Tonnes)$241.13 billion
#4 exporter of live bovine / cattle69% of Canadian fed cattle production (2.1 million head)$688.75 million
A GROWING FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRY

The sub-sector increased by 6.71% CAGR from 2011 to 2020 and was Alberta’s largest manufacturing sector with $15.5 billion in sales in 2020.

Alberta Primary & Value-Added Agriculture Exports
(Billion CAD)

Alberta’s Top Agri-Food Markets
(Million CAD)

ALBERTA FOOD PROCESSORS

Alberta’s food processors are active in meat products; grain and oilseed milling; snack foods; functional foods and natural health products; beverages; and more.

With access to competitively priced industrial facilities, a talented workforce, and connectivity, Alberta is ideal for food processing investment.

The province also boasts world-class research and development facilities such as the Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) and the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator, which supports companies bringing new products to market.

GREENHOUSES

Alberta’s relatively warm climate, consistent sunlight, low-cost natural gas, availability of water and reasonably priced land makes it an ideal location for greenhouses.

As of 2019, there were 195 greenhouses in Alberta primarily concentrated in Red Deer (22%), Edmonton (20%) and Medicine Hat (18%).

The present size of Alberta’s greenhouse crops industry is estimated to be 404 acres, 164 hectares, 17.62 million square feet, or 1.64 million square metres.

NATURAL GAS RATES FOR ALBERTA FARMS

In September 2021, the rate for natural gas was $3.87/GJ

A ROBUST RESEARCH AND INNOVATION NETWORK

Alberta has over 22 research and innovation facilities specializing in crops and cereals, poultry and swine research, agronomy, biomaterials, and food safety. The federal and provincial governments both offer tax incentives to conduct research and development.

The Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) in Leduc features the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator.

The sector is also supported by academic institutions that conduct research and offer programs in agriculture and agribusiness.

SUPPORTED BY AGRI-TECH

Farmers and ranchers collaborate with Alberta’s tech ecosystem to develop and implement innovative technologies to produce higher yields, while maintaining quality and sustainability. Olds College’s agricultural technology programs are developing the skills for Albertans to lead this movement.

It’s estimated that Alberta’s agribusinesses will spend $684 million on digital transformation by 2024.

ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP

Alberta’s bio-industrial sector is moving the province forward in the green economy with advancements in bio-based fuels, energy, materials and natural health products.

Ranchers are also working to lower the environmental footprint of their cattle herds.

Learn more about Alberta’s ESG impacts.

Areas of Focus

Primary Production

  • Canola seed
  • Pulses (peas, beans, faba beans, chickpeas and lentils)
  • Barley
  • Live cattle

The province’s arable lands, abundance of sunshine and extensive irrigation network makes it an ideal place to produce primary agricultural products.

Agri-Food Processing

  • Canola and oilseed milling
  • Vegetable processing
  • Meat and specialty meat manufacturing
  • Snack foods and functional foods
  • Natural health products and beverages
  • Pulse processing
  • Prepared animal feeds
  • Malt

Alberta’s food processing sector has seen rapid growth. In 2020, it was the province’s largest manufacturing sector with $15.5 billion in food manufacturing sales.

Bio-Industrial Products

  • Bio-fuels and energy
  • Bio-materials
  • Natural health products
  • Bio-based chemicals

Alberta is home to several innovation centres that supports the development of new bio-based products.

Agri-Tech

  • Advanced monitoring
  • Big data
  • IoT-based sensor networks
  • Satellite photography and sensors
  • Computer vision and spectral analytics
  • Hydroponics

Alberta’s innovators collaborate with farmers to increase yields, find efficiencies and promote sustainability through increased connectivity and data.

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE

Alberta is investing millions into growing sustainable food while offsetting 2.5 million tonnes of emissions from the agriculture and agri-food sectors.

Emissions Reduction Alberta

Investing $33 million in tech innovations which will lead to a cumulative GHG reduction of up to 2.7 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030.

Sustainable Beef

Canadian beef has one of the lowest GHG footprints, nearly 50% lower than the global average.

Decreased Water Usage

Canadian beef producers reduced their water usage by 17% from the 1980s to the 2010s.

Project Clean Cow

Sustainable approach to cutting agricultural methane emissions by at least 30%.

TALENT

Alberta is home to a highly educated workforce and several post-secondary institutions that specialize in agriculture, science and engineering.

Highly Educated Workforce

Alberta has one of the most educated workforces with 55% of Albertans aged 25 to 64 having completed a post-secondary program.

STEM Talent

Alberta’s post-secondary institutions had 3,525 science and technology; 4,225 engineering and engineering tech; and 1,525 math and computer science graduates in 2020.

Robust Workforce

The agricultural and agri-food sector employs over 69,800 Albertans.

Educational Programs

Post-secondary institutions across the province offer innovative agriculture and agribusiness-related programs.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Alberta boasts a well-connected transportation system and approximately 67.9% of the irrigated farmland in Canada.

Well Irrigated

Alberta has the largest irrigated area in Canada with nearly 680,000 hectares of irrigated land.

Investing In Irrigation

An $815-million investment will modernize irrigation infrastructure and increase water storage capacity, creating up to 6,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs and up to 1,280 construction jobs.

Affordable Natural Gas

Alberta’s natural gas infrastructure provides affordable heat and power to rural farms and greenhouses.

Well Connected

Edmonton and Calgary are ranked among the top mid-size cities globally for transportation costs.

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Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC)

Supports the growth and commercialization of food, beverage and ingredient companies.

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Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator (APBI)

A multi-tenant facility that provides the infrastructure and services to support the establishment and growth of new agri-food companies.

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Bio Processing Development Centre (BPIC)

Product development and scale-up support for bio-based materials, chemicals and natural health products companies. It is the only government centre with a natural and non-prescription health products (NNHP) licence.

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Fermentation Plant

Run by Innotech Alberta, this facility develops, optimizes and scales biological processes to assist customers with the commercialization of novel technologies.

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Lacombe Research and Development Centre

Houses provincial researchers focused on crop disease resistance and integrated management strategies. The Centre’s satellite location, the Beaverlodge Research Farm, focuses on canola breeding, sustainable farming and the pathology of honeybees.

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The Lethbridge Research Centre (RDC)

Leading researcher on beef cattle production systems, crop production and sustainable production systems under dryland and irrigated conditions associated with farming in semi-arid climates.

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University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Science

Conducts research in plant biosystems including plant breeding and genetics, crop biotechnology, crop protection, plant physiology, agronomy and rangeland ecology and management.

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University of Lethbridge’s School of Agricultural Biotechnology

Conducts research in agricultural economics, plant breeding, environmental microbiology, ecosystems and water management, nutrition, functional food, and nutraceutical development, as well as health and theory.

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Olds College’s Centre for Innovation’s Crops Division

Located on 3,600 acres of prime farmland in central Alberta, the Centre for Innovation’s Crops division has dedicated fields for applied research. Crops research – as small plot trials or full field investigations – is a key part of their research portfolio.

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Lakeland College’s Agricultural Sciences Program

Hands-on program focusing on farm management and applied research.

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Protein Industries Canada (PIC)

Works with industry partners to create co-investment projects that accelerate innovation and the competitiveness of Canada’s plant protein sector.

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Business Scale-Up and Productivity (BSP)

Open to incorporated high-growth businesses that have been operating in the Prairie Provinces for a minimum of two years.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Supports the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector through initiatives that promote innovation and competitiveness.

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Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED)

Uses tax incentives to encourage businesses to conduct research and development in Canada.

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Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN)

Brings together technology and agri-food companies to create new solutions that improve competitiveness, drive growth and creates jobs.

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Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF)

Supports transformative investments that develop innovation ecosystems in key sectors.

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