Lethbridge’s growing agri-food industry could share a slice of federal investments worth up to $950 million.
Two “innovation supercluster” proposals involving Alberta producers have been short-listed among nine concepts under consideration by the nation’s economic development department.
Approval for either one of them could bolster southern Alberta’s agri-business and food processing industry, predicts Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer at Economic Development Lethbridge.
The federal government’s economic development minister, Navadeep Bains, says five of the nine – selected from more than 50 submissions nationwide – will be funded.
“Superclusters are job-creating regions with strong economics, like Silicon Valley,” he explains. “Our government intends to create five of them in Canada.”
Typically, they’re collaborations between companies, universities, colleges and non-profit organizations aiming at “turning ideas into solutions that can be brought to market.”
Lewington says Agrium, the Calgary-based agricultural products giant, is leading the “Smart Agriculture” proposal. Olds College is also playing a lead role, but the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College are also participating.
It calls for investment in technologies elated to Western Canada’s crop, livestock and agri-food processing sectors.
Approval, Lewington says, would benefit southern Alberta because companies like Farmers’ Edge and Planet are already providing related services to producers across the region.
“We have many things in southern Alberta to build on, that could benefit from supercluster funding, should the ‘smart ag’ one move forward.”
The only other food-related proposal on the short list, “Protein Innovations,” is led by Saskatoon-based Ag West Bio and the University of Saskatchewan. But Lethbridge College and EDL are also involved, Lewington points out.
“The main objective is to support value-added agriculture and high-value ingredient manufacturing from plant-based proteins.
“Our region supplies many of the necessary ingredients that would make this sector successful and there are a number of proposals to bring these types of processors to our area.”
Another Alberta proposal under consideration – not food-related – was submitted by Athabasca University, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Stantec Consulting Ltd. and PCL Construction Management Inc. It seeks an infrastructure supercluster, using advanced digital communication, cutting-edge tools and interconnected services and applications.
Others advanced in various parts of the nation involve mining, manufacturing, ocean and digital technologies and artificial intelligence.
Federal officials say successful proposals will be named early next year, with a March 31 deadline. The $950 million would be provided over a five-year period.
Source : Lethbridge Herald