Over the last 20 years the agricultural ecosystem in Saskatchewan has developed with a focus on distributing Saskatchewan’s research results and food technologies to the world. As a result of building capacity in research, production and product development, the province has attracted international attention.
- Our farmers and ranchers and the abundance of diverse quality crops they produce;
- Research and innovation, which is a thread that ties together the entire value chain from seed genetics to production systems, to processing and ingredient innovations; and
- The people behind the partners in this cluster, at the University of Saskatchewan, the Food Centre, Agriculture and AgriFood Canada (AAFC) Saskatoon Research and Development Centre, GIFS and AgWest Bio.
Stepping up innovation performance
Agriculture accounts for almost one-third of Saskatchewan’s provincial economy. When faced with the challenges of COVID-19, the sector has remained resilient—illustrating that Saskatchewan’s agricultural advantage will be a key driver of post-pandemic economic recovery. Canada still has some growing to do and Ag-West Bio wants to assist with agricultural innovation. “Canada’s innovation performance is under-achieving with a less than impressive track record. We’re ranked ninth in research dollars spent, but 30th in outcomes achieved, and 60th in innovation efficiency,” Churchill says.
Meeting the specific needs of agri-value start-ups
When compared to other industries, ag technology start-ups face unique challenges. GAAP is designed to address and resolve those challenges, which include longer development timelines and complex regulatory pathways and market frameworks.
- customized relationships of one to three years (longer than typical incubators),
- investments of up to $500,000,
- a focus on advancing the technology through the innovation pipeline,
- leveraging the strengths of Saskatchewan’s ag-innovation ecosystem to commercialize, agricultural technology,
- addressing scale-up opportunities head on.
Innovation to solve the “Grand Challenge”
While innovation success can be measured in a variety of ways—from patents, to licenses, new company start-ups, commercialization, and job creation—agriculture is one of the industries most affected by global issues such as climate change, and the industry in which innovation at every level can have a global impact.
What is GAAP?
The Global Agri-Food Partnership (GAAP) is a new entity resulting from collaboration between Ag-West Bio, the Global Institute of Food Security, the Agri-Food Innovation Centre, Innovation Place, and private sector partners. GAAP was created to support early and rapid growth stage companies within all areas of agriculture and food.
GAAP combines the benefits of significant investment capital (up to $500,000), long-term incubation in a world-class facility (up to three years, with access to laboratories, greenhouses, and offices), along with guidance and training from sector-specific experts.
- Early-stage technology companies – companies working on promising disruptive technologies in the early stages of development (post proof of concept) with application in agriculture, food, or food processing.
- Rapid growth stage companies – companies that have already demonstrated large scale commercial application for their technology; often they have been successful in securing a considerable amount of investment, and in many cases, they are already generating revenue.
In most instances these companies are located and operating outside of Canada or North America (but not exclusively) and have traction and or success in overseas markets. GAAP allows them to access the North American marketplace with lower entry costs, reduce capital expenditure, a tailed concierge services, and an expedited path to market.
GAAP can increase the success rate of portfolio companies, strengthen the ecosystem, and build a foundation of success, even when venture capital investment may be lacking within the sector. GAAP offers a novel platform designed to address the unique challenges of agri-food companies and technology developers during the star-up/expansion phase. Benefits include:
- Access to state-of-the-art greenhouses, laboratories, and office space for up to three years: This means portfolio companies do not have to spend money on renting, operating, and maintaining such facilities and infrastructure. Instead, they can allocate their capital towards innovation and commercialization building tangible value.
- Up to $500,000 in investment capital: Many early-stage companies have limited access to capital, in part, due to high upfront costs and a long timeline to market entry, and revenue generation typical in this sector. By providing significant investment we enable the most promising companies to focus on technology progression and market adoption.
- Commercial volume scale-up opportunities: Most early-stage and rapid growth stage companies encounter considerable hurdles when looking at mass production. Many face the daunting task of financing their own build, along with operation and maintenance. GAAP provides scale up opportunities, offsetting the need for capital.
- Training and Mentorship: GAAP provides mentorship from sector-specific experts who provide firsthand advice on business development, regulatory pathway, product development, fund-raising, marketing, logistics, export, and more. Entrepreneurs can also access training on specialized equipment (such as qCPR). All this helps companies avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes, expediting the path to market and lowering the capital requirements.
In addition to its founding partners, GAAP has and continues to work with other global leading organizations, corporations, and institutions to leverage synergies both across Canada and internationally. Through bilateral agreements, GAAP not only provides a landing for companies looking to expand into Canada, but also fantastic programs for Canadian companies looking to expand into overseas markets