Canada is fast becoming a haven for specialized, international talent and innovation. The federal government’s commitment to invest billions in agricultural science and technologies has created a bountiful biotechnology ecosystem within Canada’s borders.
While the current global climate has quickly brought Canada into the spotlight, it is worth noting that the country has quietly been positioning itself as an agriculture, agri-food and bio-based product industry leader for quite some time now. According to a 2012 report on the state of science and technology in Canada, Canadian research in the areas of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries ranked second in the world.i In 2014, there was an estimated $2.36 billion in agri-technology deals worldwide, with seven of the top 20 investments going to Canadian firms.ii
Canada has always been an agricultural powerhouse but these days, it’s not just about selling Prairie wheat, PEI potatoes and maple syrup to the world. Now we’re also building bio-cars from ag-based fibres, composites and foams. We’re creating naturally derived pharmaceuticals and functional foods that help fight disease. We’re cutting carbon emissions by finding valuable uses for agricultural wastes, and we’re boosting agricultural productivity in all kinds of ways.
Public funding, like this federal government’s firm pledge to support agricultural technology in the 2017 Budget, has helped to establish Canada as a power player in the agri-technology sector. Yet more funding is needed to help Canada position itself as a key innovator in the space worldwide.
Companies such as Bioenterprise Corporation are working hard to establish this as we help budding and established agri-technology companies reach the next level of success. We’re advancing great ideas to market by identifying strategic partners, helping to develop financial strategies, and analyzing technologies, markets and regulatory requirements.
We’re also helping make the world greener and safer. To see our work in action, look no further than Toronto-based Agri-Neo, one of our seed funding recipients. Their mission? To safely feed the world. Agri-Neo does this by harnessing the power of oxygen to control pathogens like Salmonella on seeds, grains, and nuts. Unlike pasteurization, this process keeps food raw, organic, and viable. They are working to solve real-world problems, and are not alone.
Bioenterprise works with hundreds of companies like Agri-Neo every year, but there are still more agri- technology ventures that need help to become successful and sustainable businesses. Although the Canadian agri-technology sector is firmly positioning itself as a thought leader in the space, more could be done to elevate Canada to be the top innovator, and more support from the federal and provincial governments will ensure this.
According to the UN, the global population is expected to surpass 9.6 billion by 2050.iii An additional two billion mouths to feed, coupled with already-strained resources, climate change-related production
challenges and a rapidly expanding middle class, are serving as glaring red flags to food policy-makers the world over. Canadian researchers and innovators, with the support of Bioenterprise Corporation, are working to take Canadian technology to the next level, and drive the kind of change our world truly needs.
Armed with an endless supply of inventive ideas, support from an impressive array of agricultural colleges, research institutes, and industry leaders, and a sobering acknowledgement and understanding of the challenges the world faces, the Canadian agri-technology sector is well-positioned to help prepare the global citizenry for the issues that lie ahead – with the right support.
Norton Rose Fulbright
United Nations Department of Economic and Rural Affairs
President & CEO