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 in the province — we’ve been innovating in this sector ever since. Building off its rich history, the agricultural industry is developing new technologies to increase production, improve efficiency and create high-quality, value-added products. Alberta is the home to global agribusinesses leading the transformation of sustainable food and environmental stewardship. 

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

© Travel Alberta. Photo by Dan Schyk 

Alberta Stories

Lovingly Made Ingredients

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

Alberta is a global agricultural leader across the supply chain. Many of the world’s largest agricultural companies have corporate offices located throughout the province.

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, producing wheat, oats, barley, canola, pulses, and more. In 2020, agricultural exports totaled 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, as well as live cattle.

Alberta’s Share of Canadian Production for Selected Crops (2020)

In 2020, 68% of Canada’s beef was produced in Alberta, 28% of pulses and 39% of field peas

Firms operating in Alberta have preferred market access to 51 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)2020 Alberta Exports
#1 Exporter of Canola Seed27.84% of Canada’s Canola (5.2 million tonnes)$1.71 Billion
#3 Exporter of Wheat after Russia and the United States31.38% 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, Lentils at 2.3 Million Tonnes)$214.16 Million
#5 Exporter of Barley49.19% of Canada’s Barley (5.3 Million Tonnes)$241.13 Million
#4 Exporter of Live Bovine/Cattle after France, Australia, and Mexico69% of Canadian Fed Cattle Production (2.1 Million Head)$688.75 Million
A growing food processing industry

Alberta has seen rapid growth in its value-added food processing industry. The sub-sector increased by 6.71 per cent CAGR from 2011 to 2020 and was Alberta’s largest manufacturing sector with $15.5 billion in food manufacturing sales in 2020.

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

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

Largest food manufacturing industry by sales in Western Canada with $15.5 B in 2020

Alberta’s food processors are active in a range of areas from meat products, grain and oilseed milling, snack foods, functional foods and natural health products, and beverages.

Access to competitively prices industrial facilities, a talented workforce, and connectivity to the North American market make Alberta ideal for food processing investment. The province also boasts research and development facilities, such as the Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) and the Agri-value Processing Business Incubator, which support 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 ideal for greenhouses.

As of 2019, there were 195 greenhouses in Alberta mostly concentrated in Red Deer (22%), Edmonton (20%) and Medicine Hat (18%). Alberta’s total greenhouse area is estimated to be 17.6 million square feet.

Natural Gas Rates for Farms Alberta 2019–2021

$2.11/GJ

Regulated Rate

$3.61/GJ

Fixed Rate

$3.27/kWh

Variable Rate

Robust research and innovation network

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

The Food Processing Development Centre (FPDC) in Leduc includes the Agri-value Processing Business Incubator, a food product commercialization facility that is unique in Canada.

The sector is also supported by several academic institutions, conducting research, and offering programs in agriculture and agribusiness.

Supported by agri-tech

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

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

An environmental leader

Agriculture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been relatively stable for 20 years — representing 8.4% of Canada’s total emissions. In that time, production has increased significantly, resulting in a decrease of GHG emission intensity by half.

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. Alberta’s ranchers are also continuously working to lower the environmental footprint of their cattle herds.

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 make it ideal for 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 and was the province’s largest manufacturing sector with $15.5 billion in food manufacturing sales in 2020.

Bio-industrial products

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

Alberta is growing its expertise in bio-industrial products. The province features several innovation centres that support companies developing 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 for communities around the world, while offsetting 2.5 million tonnes of emissions from the agriculture and agri-food sectors.

GHG emissions reduction

Alberta’s agricultural sector has decreased GHG emission intensity by half in the past 20 years.

Sustainable beef

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

Better soil conservation

Soil conservation practices has allowed soils to sequester carbon for 20 years — offsetting nearly 10% of the sector’s emissions.

Decreased water usage

17% reduction in water usage by Canadian beef producers from the 1980s to the 2010s.

Project Clean Cow

Sustainable approach to cutting agricultural methane emissions by 30%.

Emissions Reduction Alberta

Investing $33 million in tech innovations to reduce emissions by up to 2.7 million tonnes.

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 among OECD countries with half of its population aged 25-64 having attained a post-secondary education.

Significant 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 grads in 2020.

Robust workforce

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

Educational programs

Alberta has several agriculture- and agribusiness-related programs at Olds College, Portage College, University of Lethbridge, Lakeland College, University of Alberta and University of Calgary.

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 more irrigation

$815 million investment to add another 200,000 acres of irrigated land.

Affordable natural gas

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

Well connected

KPMG City Competitive Index ranks Edmonton and Calgary among the top 10 mid-size cities for transportation costs.

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Alberta’s agribusinesses are innovating

Through innovation and research, Alberta’s agribusinesses are finding new, efficient ways to feed and power the world, while reducing their carbon footprint.

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Food Processing Development Centre

The Food Processing Development Centre supports the growth and commercialization of food, beverage and ingredient companies.

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Agri-value Processing Business Incubator

The Agri-value Processing Business Incubator (APBI) is 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

The Bio Processing Innovation Centre (BPIC) provides essential 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

The Fermentation Plant, run by Innotech Alberta, develops, optimizes and scales biological processes to assist customers with the commercialization of novel technologies.

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Lacombe Research and Development Centre

The Lacombe Research and Development Centre is an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facility, which houses provincial researchers focused on crop disease resistance and integrated management strategies. The Centre’s satellite location, the Beaverlodge Research Farm, focus on canola breeding, sustainable farming and management and pathology of the honeybee.

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The Lethbridge Research Centre

The Lethbridge Research Centre conducts research in seven sector strategies and under a public-private partnership is working on developing adapted winter and spring wheat and adapted dry bean germplasm to dry land and irrigated production systems.

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

The Faculty of Agriculture, Life, and Environmental Science conducts research in the area of plant biosystems including plant breeding and genetics, crop biotechnology, crop protection, plant physiology, agronomy and rangeland ecology and management.

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National Institute of Nanotechnology

The National Institute of Nanotechnology is a unique, integrated, multidisciplinary institute involving researchers from fields such as physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, informatics, pharmacy, and medicine.

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The School of Agricultural Biotechnology at the University of Lethbridge

The School of Agricultural Biotechnology at the University of Lethbridge conducts research in the areas of agricultural economics, plant breeding, environmental microbiology, ecosystems and water management, nutrition, functional food, and nutraceutical development, as well as areas of health and theory.

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Olds College Centre for Innovation’s Crops Division

The Olds College Centre for Innovation’s Crops Division has dedicated acres for applied research purposes. Olds College is also home to the Smart Farm an interconnected environment aimed at to accelerating agriculture technology and agri-food development.

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Lakeland College Agricultural Sciences Program

Lakeland College Agricultural Sciences Program is a hands-on program focusing on farm management and applied research.

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Canadian Agricultural Partnership

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.

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Canada Alberta-Job Grant

The Canada Alberta-Job Grant is a training program where an employer applies on behalf of their present or future employees for eligible training costs.

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Protein Industries Canada

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 Program

Business Scale-up and Productivity Program supports businesses at various stages of development to accelerate their growth, scale-up, and be more productive and competitive in both domestic and global markets.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector through initiatives that promote innovation and competitiveness.

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Strategic Innovation Fund

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) supports large-scale, transformative and collaborative projects that help position Canada to prosper in the global knowledge-based economy.

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Scientific Research and Experimental Development

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program uses tax incentives to encourage Canadian businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to conduct research and development (R&D) in Canada.

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Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network

The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) brings together technology and agri-food companies to create new solutions that improve competitiveness, drive growth in both sectors and create jobs.

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Sustainable Development Technology Canada

Sustainable Development Technology Canada funds companies with the potential to transform the environmental and economic prosperity of Canada.

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Opportunity Calgary Fund

The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund supports transformative investments that develop innovation ecosystems in key sectors.

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Get more information

Please contact us for investment-related inquiries.

Canola Field near Red Deer, Alberta.

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