Agri-food start-ups have unique challenges. Along with the usual issues encountered by all fledgling companies, they often need highly specialized equipment and staff, have high upfront costs, and face a long road to market entry and revenue generation.
Saskatchewan is traditionally known for crop development, with decades of public and industry research leading to the production of high-quality cereals, oilseeds, and pulses.
Several years ago, the provincial government began to focus on adding more value to Saskatchewan commodities through processing crops into ingredients and finished food products. It established a Value-Added Strategy to build on existing strengths in primary agriculture, attract investment, develop infrastructure, and create new opportunities.
Ag-West Bio, Saskatchewan’s bioscience industry association, joined forces with the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan, Innovation Place, and the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre (Food Centre) to gain a better understanding of what was needed to advance the sector. There appeared to be a gap in the agri-food innovation pipeline, so the organizations worked together to determine how to fill it.
The process led to the creation of the Global Agri-Food Advancement Partnership (the GAAP).
The GAAP is not just an accelerator; it is not just funding; and it is not just an incubator: it is a combination of all these things.
The GAAP targets two types of companies: early-stage companies working on promising, disruptive technologies in the early stages of development, with applications in agriculture, food, or food processing; and domestic and international clients looking to establish a presence in Western Canada.
Companies can use facilities at Innovation Place (including greenhouses, laboratories, and office space) for up to three years. They can also access GIFS’ Omics and Precision Agriculture (OPAL) platform to support plant breeding, post-harvest technologies, and drone, imaging and sensor technologies, and the Food Centre’s expertise and incubation suites.
The GAAP can provide significant investment (up to $500K) to the most promising companies, allowing them to focus on technology progression and market adoption. It also provides commercial-volume scale-up opportunities for early-stage and rapid growth-stage companies as they encounter the hurdles of mass production, or the daunting task of financing their own build.
The GAAP also provides mentorship by experts in business development, regulatory pathway, product development, fundraising, marketing, logistics, export, and more. And entrepreneurs can access training on specialized equipment. All this helps companies avoid costly mistakes, expediting the path to market and lowering capital requirements.
Officially launched in December, the GAAP is now beginning its work of supporting start-ups and growing the agri-food industry in Western Canada.To learn more about GAAP, contact Jay Robinson, Interim CEO, at 306-370-8825.