Key international players in the agri-value space were brought together under one roof (a few virtually) for the 2024 Saskatchewan Agri-Value Forum and Networking event on April 30th and May 1st in Saskatoon, SK. 

This landmark forum, hosted by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, expanded its format to two days this year, offering a mix of presentations and workshops that emphasized the transformative potential of value-added agriculture. Ag-West Bio played a vital role in coordinating aspects of the event, along with a committee comprising Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), and Saskatchewan’s Ministries of Agriculture and Trade & Economic Development.  

Day 1: Thought leaders, insights, and innovation   

Clint Smith and Miri Eliyahu from Euromonitor kicked off the event with a presentation on food industry trends, emphasizing the importance of understanding consumer preferences and market shifts. Their analysis provided a roadmap for navigating the ever-evolving global food landscape. 

Next on the program, Mario Ubiali of Thimus ‘zoomed in’ to explore how emotions influence food choices, offering insights that could revolutionize product development and marketing strategies within the food industry. 

David Swintosky of Dunning Capital shared his expertise in scaling international start-ups. His lessons were geared to agri-value businesses facing growth challenges, providing attendees with actionable strategies for success. 

A panel moderated by Jennifer Stelzer (PrairiesCan), with agri-food leaders Shannon Sears (Bioriginal), Austin Calladine (Sweet Nutrition) and Elyce Simpson Fraser (Simpson Seeds) explored critical aspects of scaling in Saskatchewan. Topics included customer needs, talent acquisition, and vision creation. The diverse stages of growth and development of the companies represented by the panel made the discussion highly relevant to the audience. 

AJ Bird, a climate solutions entrepreneur, and Jamie Bakos (Titan Clean Energy Projects) participated in an insightful session on exploring Indigenous agriculture, moderated by Kallie Wood (National Circle for Indigenous Agriculture and Food). They highlighted the value of partnerships, discipline, and culture, and discussed how collaboration with Indigenous communities can drive innovation and sustainability in agriculture.  

The momentum continued with Christine Gould, globally recognized agrifood innovation leader and founder of Thought for Food. Gould travelled from Switzerland to deliver a keynote presentation addressing climate anxiety and GMOs. She also introduced UNICEF’s Giga project, a bold initiative aimed at tackling global challenges related to food security, climate change, and sustainable agriculture. 

The day concluded with a networking session at the Sheraton Cavalier Hotel’s Top of the Inn, where attendees had an opportunity to connect and share ideas. 

Day 2: Workshops 

Three hands-on workshops led by seasoned industry experts were offered on the second day of the Forum.  

  • Open Sail’s Derrick Swanson facilitated the Performance Marketing workshop. Participants were given tools and techniques for enhancing market reach and customer engagement through data-driven approaches.  
  • The Transformative Leadership Program with Christy Michalak (NGen) and Dan Shunk (Arizona State University) emphasized leadership practices essential for driving industry success.  
  • Finally, Kevin Elder (Food Processing Skills Canada) led a workshop called HR Strategies for Saskatchewan Employees, offering practical tools for building strong teams, fostering positive workplace culture, and aligning HR practices with business goals.  

Thanks to the high-caliber speakers who shared a wealth of knowledge, and a highly engaged audience, Saskatchewan Agri-Value Forum and Networking 2024 was a resounding success, A post-event survey showed many attendees felt they made invaluable connections and plan to be back for future events. As they implement the ideas discussed, the future of Saskatchewan’s value-added sector looks bright.

Watch the 2024 Saskatchewan Agri-Value Forum here

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