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Author: Sherri Bouslama

Onetwosix Design – Finding solutions through innovation

Onetwosix founders, Brendan Gallagher & Nick Kazakoff

Onetwosix founders, Nick Kazakoff and Brendan Gallagher are both graduates of the University of Alberta’s Industrial Design program – a program that Nick refers to as a “hidden gem” in the Edmonton region. The program has developed near mythic status in the design world – with students graduating into jobs with firms like Adidas, Nike and Lego to name a few – a testament to the depth and breadth of talent that is coming out of the post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and Onetwosix is no exception.

They’ve seen some substantial growth since they were founded in 2015 and that success is translating into recognition. Onetwosix has recently received a Designer of the Year award from Western Living Magazine. They have developed design solutions ranging from office privacy, to medical equipment, to solutions for safe covid-19 screening. If there’s a design challenge, the pair have proven they are more than capable of finding innovative ways to solve it.

Nick credits the supportive business environment that exists within the Edmonton region for a lot of their success.

“We started out with investing only $4000 and were working out of a garage,” says Nick. “We really benefitted from initiatives like the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce’s Trade Accelerator Program that worked with us to bring our product to market. But on top of that, the local business community is incredible. When it came time to expand our operations and we needed more space, another well-established design firm in the area, IZM, offered to let us share some of their workspace. They could have viewed us as the competition but instead they provided us with incredible support and mentorship.”

The duo’s biggest success has come with their Loop Phone Booth, an office privacy solution made to address the drawbacks that were starting to emerge in open-concept office spaces. The pair’s modern take on phone booths has generated a lot of interest, translating into orders from big name companies like Shopify, Mercedes Benz and even Pokemon.

The Loop Phone Booth

“The reception to our designs has been incredible,” says Nick. “And working with these companies has been amazing.”

When it came to the decision of where to manufacture their designs, Nick says the decision was pretty simple.

“The Edmonton region has such a strong background when it comes to expertise in manufacturing, it made sense to build our product here,” points out Nick. “The capabilities here are really sophisticated. And while traditionally, a lot of the manufacturing that’s been happening here has been in the energy sector, those same tools, knowledge and skillsets are completely translatable for our industry.”

This decision to establish their manufacturing operations in the region has also helped them in other ways. Being located in the Edmonton region meant much faster shipping times for their North American clients compared to some of their competitors and it provided a gateway into the US market.

“We’ve also benefitted from government incentives like the Canadian Export Grant,” says Nick. “This really helped us break into the US market with our office furniture solutions.”

But this innovative firm is not content to simply focus on one niche market. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of this innovative firm lies in their ability to apply their design skills to a broad range of industries.

“We’ve always approached design by thinking about the people that will be using our product. And we look for the solutions that are unique to that person and their situation – it’s truly a human-centred approach,” says Nick. 

It’s this attitude that has seen the duo successfully take on the daunting challenge of designing the housing for an MRI machine, to help make patients feel more at ease, and on the complete opposite side of the design spectrum, they’ve developed a new design for a line of curling brooms.

More recently, Onetwosix has shifted their focus again, using their unique skillsets to address some of the challenges that have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they’ve designed the Loop Rapid Screening Booth, a modular design that creates a safe environment for people administering COVID-19 testing, making the procedure quicker and safer and eliminating the use of some PPE equipment – which has seen a huge surge in demand throughout the pandemic.  Their design has been authorized as a Class 1 medical device for use in relation to COVID-19 by Health Canada and the pair is working hard to bring their concept to market. They are actively building partnerships with airports where rapid testing could support the air travel industry – arguably the hardest hit industry throughout the pandemic.

“A product like this has the ability to impact a broad range of industries though,” says Nick. “From airports to healthcare, to schools, to almost any businesses wanting to create a safe environment for their employees – we see the potential for our Rapid Screening Booth to have a broad impact.”

You can learn more by reaching out to the team at Onetwosix by following this link.


The Edmonton-based company sells cheesecakes and cheese shreds, and will soon launch a line of meat alternatives and expand into the U.S.

When Ahmad Yehya and his partner, Afaf Miri, started Nabati Foods in 2014, they set out to show consumers that it’s possible to eat mouth-watering foods and also live a healthy life.

“It’s based out of passion for whole, plant-based foods. We started out making desserts that we sold at farmers’ markets and our vision is to inspire those that value their health to indulge in clean foods … and positively impact the climate as well,” said Yehya, president of the company.

“We saw that North American culture was so different than where we came from,” Yehya explained, who is Egyptian but grew up in Saudi Arabia before moving to Canada at university age. “You can still have amazing food whether you want to consume burgers or something else by incorporating plant-based foods.”

They started with desserts as they didn’t find many whole-food alternatives and they wanted to fill that gap in the market. Their first product line was a selection of dairy-free cheesecakes, including blueberry, chocolate, tiramisu and peanut butter. Cheese alternatives followed, with their current selection including cheddar and mozzarella shreds. Soon they will be offering slices as well.

Their most popular product is the Nabati Cheeze Mozzarella Style Shreds, which they created to taste and melt exactly like dairy cheese.

The products are developed in-house and the team invests a considerable amount of time perfecting each recipe. They mostly use peas, nuts and coconut in their products.

“We start out with seeing what’s out there and what the consumer expects. Then we look at where the gaps are and try to make a product that bridges that.”

The focus is more about the process of making each product than the formulation and Yehya said they intentionally incorporated scalability into that.

As they’ve learned from each product line, they’ve improved their processes and gotten faster. While their cheesecakes took a few years to develop, their newest line was developed in a few months.

That line of meat alternatives is launching later this summer with chicken, fish and beef patties as well as ground beef.

While companies like Beyond Meat have dominated that space in recent years, Yehya isn’t worried about his company’s ability to be successful.

“We develop our products to directly compete with them and position ourselves in a way that you’re not just buying a meat alternative but you’re supporting a Canadian company that creates jobs here.

“We’re trying to come in and position our unique brand in the market by also offering products that are not necessarily addressed by the big brands. We’re creating products that stand out from the competition.”

When the idea to start Nabati Foods was born, Yehya pooled his money with his wife Afaf Miri and his father to lease and renovate a 1,700-square-foot space in Edmonton that the company’s team of six is still using as their main production facility. But Yehya said they need a space three to four times that size to support growth in Canada and the United States.

“We’re at a point where if we raise capital and resources, we can grow really quickly versus having to continue doing things ourselves and it would take much longer,” said Yehya.

Currently, their products can be ordered online and are available across Canada, mostly at Save on Foods and Sobeys/Safeway stores as well as many independents.

They’ve had to turn down opportunities because everything that’s being made is selling out and it’s been tough to keep up with demand. Looking forward, he’s working on getting Nabati Foods into five distribution centres in the United States.

“We know we can do more.”

Yehya is confident there’s nothing as unique as their products on the market and Nabati Foods will look to capitalize on that as it adds more plant-based foods down the line.

Pegasus Imagery – Setting the standard for drone technology

Cole Rosentreter, founder and CEO, Pegasus Imagery

Pegasus Imagery, an Edmonton-based data and drone company, continues to work hard to bridge the gap between military and consumer applications for drone technology. Their recent move to the Edmonton region’s Villeneuve Airport in Sturgeon County was based on a strategic decision to support the firm’s overall goal of supporting the regulation of drone technology operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in Canada.

“The Villeneuve airport is a phenomenal space for us,” says Cole Rosentreter, Pegasus founder and CEO. “It’s bright and it’s modern – so far we are loving it here. But more than that, we’ve been warmly welcomed by the general aviation community here. Because the regulations don’t yet exist in terms of how manned and unmanned aircraft should operate in relation to each other, there is a tendency for some to be risk averse. But what we’ve found here, is that the team at Villeneuve is open to new ways of doing things, which allows us to take more risks in terms of what we are trying to do. This location works as a ‘sandbox’ for us where we are able to test new ways of how we can operate in a controlled airspace.”

Pegasus is also working closely with Transport Canada to establish a regulatory environment for BVLOS for the industry.

“Selfishly, this is a great advantage for us,” says Cole. “Being a first mover in this space will allow us to help deliver real-world data to Transport Canada as they create new regulations for how this industry will be governed. It was interesting, when we first approached Transport Canada, they weren’t that interested. There was a hesitancy to even consider BVLOS operations for drone technology. But when we showed them how the technology we had developed worked, they were excited about the possibility. They saw that we had developed a solution to the problem that had made them hesitant to even consider the expansion of this technology.”

That technology is A3S, or Autonomous Airspace Awareness System, that actively detects and tracks other aircraft in the area, both manned and unmanned, and autonomously executes the safest course of action to avoid collisions. This technology also has the added benefit of improving the scalability of the products that Pegasus is developing.

“Essentially, we can go from having one pilot on the ground, operating one unmanned aircraft, to one pilot operating 20 units,” says Cole.

Cole is bullish in his belief in the potential that drone technology can bring to the aerospace and aviation industry and points to the size of the industry and the massive amount of opportunity that exists. Big companies like Suncor and Trans Mountain are looking for the data they need to improve their business functions and Pegasus is providing the solution.

“Pegasus is hitting the mark when it comes to overcoming the technology barrier and doing it at a scale that makes economic sense,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. Malcolm had a long and distinguished career in the military prior to shifting to the private sector. “Pegasus isn’t just bridging the gap between military and commercial aerial vehicles; they are creating a new market. And their technology and approach is helping establish the national standard. Pegasus provides data at the scale that satellites or manned aircraft are able to accomplish but they’re doing it cheaper, better and faster.”

Pegasus to participate in Boeing Canada LaunchPad Program

Pegasus continues to push forward with the commercial applications they’ve developed and have recently been chosen to participate in the Boeing LaunchPad program – a partnership between Boeing Canada and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. It’s similar to an accelerator program and is aimed at businesses operating in the aviation and aerospace industry that are demonstrating innovation in their field.

“This is a great opportunity for Pegasus,” says Cole. “It’s really a win-win situation. Boeing is looking at expanding its reach into new markets and is looking for new technology partners to improve their competitiveness. By partnering with companies like us, when they go to the Government of Canada, wanting to sell their products and Canada asks, ‘What’s the benefit for us?’ What we’re hoping is that somewhere in their answer is Pegasus.” 

The program will give Cole and his team access to senior Boeing executives and prospective investors and partners, opening up the potential of licensing and selling their technology to Boeing or working on a joint venture. Boeing has selected 10 companies from across Canada to take part in this pilot program and Pegasus is the only hardware and software technology – most are working in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.

Pegasus selected as Cycle II semifinalist for NASA Itech

Pegasus has also been selected as one of 20 companies worldwide as a Cycle II semi-finalist for NASA Itech. An honour which Cole refers to as “humbling.”

“Most people, when they think of NASA automatically think of space. But the first A in NASA actually stands for aeronautics,” Cole points out. “For the last 6 years NASA has been the lead agency in the United States doing research and development around what the new future of aerospace management looks like. With the influx of millions of drones, commercial flights, and rocket launches – how are we going to manage that? What we’re doing at Villeneuve is very similar to what NASA is doing… they’re just at a much larger scale.”

Cole says that new technology they are developing at Pegasus holds great potential for launch applications as well – evidence that Pegasus continues to be an industry leader when it comes to being forward thinking in providing the solutions that a wide variety of industries are looking for.

“People have had 20 years to be underwhelmed by drone technology,” says Cole. “We are changing that.”

Join Edmonton Global at World Summit AI

World Summit AI is the world’s leading and largest AI summit bringing together the global AI ecosystem of industry, technology, startups, investors and science. Many of the world’s biggest AI and tech companies participate as speakers, covering the trending topics that are top of mind in the AI world.

This year Edmonton Global has partnered with Invest in Canada and the Trade Commissioner in the Netherlands and will be launching a taking over the Canadian booth on October 22, 2020 from 7:00 to 9:00am (MST) to share some of the exciting things that are happening in the AI ecosystem in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Forward thinking initiatives, like the Pan Canadian AI strategy have built an ecosystem around artificial intelligence and machine learning that is world class and the region has attracted some of the worlds brightest minds in AI including Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski.

These strengths are being leveraged by both local industry and international firms as the region continues to gain recognition around the globe. Led by investments from Google DeepMind and Google Brain, Microsoft, and Apple and anchored by the University of Alberta – ranked 3rd in the world for AI research, the Edmonton region continues to grow and expand its AI expertise. The region is attracting a lot of attention with large multinationals like Toyota, Volkswagen, and IBM looking to chase the talent that exists here.  

“More and more the world is waking up to the fact that AI has the ability to transform business – to improve business operations, increase efficiencies and accelerate scalability” says Edmonton Global’s Amanpreet Bhatti, who will be the host of Canada’s booth. “We’re bringing together academic and industry leaders to showcase the incredible talent and expertise that exists here and provide a platform to showcase our region to the world.”

Amanpreet Bhatti, Business Development Associate, Edmonton Global

At the summit, Edmonton Global will be joined by a number of leaders and researchers from the Alberta Machine Intelligence (Amii), part of the Pan Canadian AI Strategy, to talk about how their organization can partner with industry to assist with adoption of AI tools. They’ll share some of the interesting things that they are working on and provide an overview of the AI ecosystem in Edmonton.

We’ll also be hosting local business leaders from AltaML, whose business model is focused helping businesses to integrate AI into their operations, as well as Williams Engineering, who has benefitted from building such a partnership with AltaML. You’ll hear how businesses working in traditional sectors are successfully leveraging the strength of AI to expand their business model into the tech space.

We’ll also be sharing perspectives from a global data analytics firm, Ixonn, which has recently chosen the Edmonton region as the location for their North American headquarters and central hub for their research and development and you’ll hear why Google DeepMind chose the Edmonton region as the location for its first international research lab.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you that this event is not to be missed, visitors to our takeover of the Canada booth will have the opportunity to test their poker skills against an actual AI with Amii’s Deepstack demonstration.

We’re looking forward to connecting with you virtually and sharing with you some of the opportunities that exist for your business in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

You can access discounted tickets to World Summit AI here.

University of Alberta virologist awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

University of Alberta virologist Michael Houghton won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine today for his discovery of the hepatitis C virus. (Photo: Richard Siemens)

Michael Houghton was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine today in recognition of his discovery of the hepatitis C (HCV) virus.

His discovery with colleagues Qui-Lim Choo and George Kuo in 1989 opened a new field of viral hepatitis research that led to improved blood safety, and hepatitis C treatment to the point where the viral infection can now be cured in virtually all patients.

New screening tests were developed for blood donations as a result of their discovery. By 1992, the virus was virtually eliminated from the blood supply. This, in turn, led to a reduction in annual reported transmission by more than 80 per cent by 1996.

Houghton was recruited to the University of Alberta in 2010 as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology in the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. Two years later, he and his team created hope with the development of a vaccine for the virus that is known to cause cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. About 20 to 30 per cent of people who suffer from hepatitis C develop severe liver disease. The vaccine is now in the late pre-clinical stage of testing.

Based on the discovery of the virus, antiviral therapies have also been developed that will cure 95 per cent of hepatitis C carriers. This is the first chronic viral illness that can be cured.

Houghton recently began leading an effort to produce a vaccine for COVID-19. He had also created a successful vaccine for the SARS-CoV-1 virus in 2004, but it was never needed because SARS disappeared.

“Michael Houghton’s achievement cannot be overstated,” said University of Alberta president Bill Flanagan. “Dr. Houghton has made this world a better place. As president of the University of Alberta, the institution where he has dedicated his time, I am thrilled that his work has been recognized in this way.”

“Today is a wonderful day for Dr. Houghton and the faculty,” said Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry dean Brenda Hemmelgarn. “Dr. Houghton has been an amazing colleague and powerful force since the first day he joined us, and we are immensely proud of him and his accomplishments.”

In addition to his role as director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, Houghton is the Li Ka Shing Professor of Virology, and a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology was created through a gift of $25 million from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation, as well as a $52.5-million commitment from the Government of Alberta.

“This is a great day for Canada, the University of Alberta and the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology,” said Lorne Tyrrell, director of the institute. “Canada’s only Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was won in 1923 by Frederick Banting and John Macleod. The second prize has come 97 years later—a long-awaited Nobel in medicine for a scientist at a Canadian university. I am extremely proud of Michael and his two colleagues, Harvey Alter and Charlie Rice.”

Watch the announcement:

New rapid COVID-19 test taking off at EIA

GLC, Edmonton company, testing new technology exclusively at airport 

In partnership with GLC Medical (GLCM) Inc., a subsidiary of Graphene Leaders Canada (GLC) Inc., an Edmonton-based company, EIA will host clinical trials of this new technology that has the potential to have global implications for COVID-19 testing. This test is conducted with a handheld unit that takes a saliva sample from a person and is expected to tell if someone has COVID-19 in under 1-minute, compared to other tests with longer laboratory-based waiting periods for results.  This test promises many advantages from its ease of use to the elimination of the nasal swab to direct virus detection.  This kind of test will help address the need for a 14-day quarantine period in Canada and potentially other international quarantine restrictions. By removing or reducing this barrier, it can help travellers feel safer in returning to travel.  

GLC Medical (GLCM) Inc. is headquartered in the Edmonton Research Park and has garnered international attention for the development of this test, which is still undergoing clinical testing as part of the regulatory approval process with health authorities. As an airport, EIA understands working with governments and within a regulated structure. With secure and safe facilities and a consistent flow of passengers, it’s one reason an airport is an ideal place to start testing the trial phase of this new COVID-19 rapid test.   

“We all want travel to get back to normal and a rapid COVID-19 test will accelerate this return while enhancing passenger confidence in the safety of our industry.  While we have seen some growth in recent months, our passenger numbers during COVID-19 continue to remain low and a test like this is crucial to our future. All airlines, airports and the whole travel and hospitality sector are looking for this solution. If EIA can play a role in bringing new technology and science forward by partnering with experts like GLC that’s exactly what we’re going to do. This is an exciting opportunity for all of us.” 

-Tom Ruth, President and CEO, Edmonton International Airport 

“We are very excited to offer the world a graphene-enhanced rapid solution in COVID-19 virus detection. The opportunity to collaborate with EIA, a world-respected airport authority, to enable travel and to bring families back together is very rewarding for us. This graphene-enhanced rapid test demonstrates the power of graphene innovation to overcome the challenges of COVID-19. GLC is proud to be a part of EIA’s initiative in setting the global standard in safety and reliability for their travellers.” 

-Donna Mandau, President & CEO, Graphene Leaders Canada (GLC) Inc. / GLC Medical (GLCM) Inc. 

Prototype of the rapid COVID-19 testing unit. Credit: GLC Medical

 How the test works 

  • The person being tested provides a saliva sample into the testing unit; 
  • The graphene surface inside the testing unit is designed to bond to the spike protein in the virus; 
  • This binding event changes the electronic characteristics of the graphene, and this measurable change is what is used to determine if a person is infected or not; 
  • The device will show a red or green light in under 1-minute to indicate if a person is virus free or not; 
  • The test is not required to be administered by a medical professional and with training can be administered by anyone, similar to how basic first aid training is done. 

 The next step is to bring this test and GLC to EIA and establish a safe and secure test site. Details about the testing and the process will be shared in the coming weeks. A start date has not been determined, but once it begins, the clinical trial will last several weeks over this fall. This trial phase will help GLC Medical secure regulatory approval and certification for its test from Health Canada and other regulatory bodies, including in the United States and other areas of the world. 

 As a not-for-profit corporation, EIA works to attract investment and jobs to the Edmonton Metro Region and support local innovation. Airports connect global communities and create opportunities for people and business. The partnership with GLC Medical has tremendous opportunities to impact many industries beyond just the travel industry. EIA is focused on safety and security as its number one core value and creating a safe passenger experience at the airport is a priority. The EIA Ready program focuses not only on enhanced cleaning but also seeking out and adopting new innovations and technologies to help passengers feel comfortable in the airport and with travel overall. The recent announcement of EIA being accredited by Airports Council International (ACI) with the airport health certification is yet another example of how EIA is putting safety and security as a top priority in creating a safe airport. Visit flyeia.com/ready for more information.  

About Edmonton International Airport 

Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive economic prosperity for the Edmonton Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian airport by land area. EIA offers non-stop connections to destinations across Canada, the US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. EIA is a major economic driver, with an economic output of over $3.2 billion, supporting over 26000 jobs. For more information, please visit: flyeia.com, follow @flyeia on TwitterInstagramLinkedin or Facebook

About GLC  

Graphene Leaders Canada (GLC) Inc. is a Canadian technology company producing high quality, high purity graphene nanomaterials which functions as a platform technology with the ability to add value across numerous applications. Graphene Leaders Canada Inc. is focused to work with industry to develop solutions by integrating the graphene to develop new innovative products.  GLC’s tag line is “Making Great Products Even Greater”.   

GLC Medical (GLCM) Inc. is a subsidiary of GLC Inc. and offers graphene solutions in the medical industry leveraging our material science expertise in working with high quality graphene and developing products and solutions to serve the betterment of People and Planet.    

Edmonton receives platinum certification for the Data for Canadian Cities Project

September 21, 2020

Today, the World Council on City Data (WCCD) recognized the City of Edmonton for achieving ISO 37120 Platinum certification as part of the Government of Canada supported Data for Canadian Cities Project. This is the highest level of certification that a city can achieve and reflects the calibre of the data reported in accordance with ISO 37120: Sustainable Cities and Communities – Indicators for City Services, the first international standard for city data. This global first was largely created through the input of Canadian urban leaders and practitioners.  

“Transparency and accountability maintain and strengthen our democracy. This is why we’re extremely pleased to have achieved Platinum certification from the WCCD for the Data for Canadian Cities Project,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Edmonton has long been a leader in data-driven decision-making to provide better City services and improve quality of life for Edmontonians. I’d like to thank Minister McKenna and the WCCD for their leadership in this project and encourage my colleagues in other Canadian municipalities to participate in this important work.” 

“We are so pleased to welcome Edmonton into the WCCD global network of 100 data-driven cities across more than 35 countries” stated the WCCD President and CEO, Dr. Patricia McCarney. “Edmonton is already recognized, here in Canada and on the global stage, as a city truly dedicated to building high calibre data for performance management, benchmarking and moreover, for putting that data to use as a core element in their strategic planning framework. Being awarded WCCD ISO Platinum Certification today further underscores the commitment of Mayor Iveson and Edmonton’s leaders on leveraging globally standardized, comparable, and independently verified city data, that will drive a more prosperous, sustainable, resilient and inclusive future for the City’s residents.”

“All communities, large and small, need good data to plan and build modern public infrastructure. Meeting global data standards is critical. Through the Data for Canadian Cities Project, in partnership with the World Council on City Data, we’ve been helping municipal leaders in a number of communities across Canada do just that,” stated The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “I am delighted that Edmonton has obtained the ISO standard for municipal data. This will help the City plan projects with quality data and will help guide evidence-based decision-making. Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country and builds stronger communities.”

Data for participating Canadian cities will be publicly available in early 2021 on the WCCD website, following the relaunch of the WCCD Visualization Portal. Data compiled through this project supports municipalities to better plan and implement infrastructure investments and measure the impacts of those investments on economic prosperity and the quality of life of their residents. 

The WCCD administered ISO 37120 is a globally standardized data set that measures quality of life and delivery of municipal services. As part of a funded agreement with the Government of Canada, the WCCD is working with fifteen municipalities across Canada to help them become certified under ISO 37120, doubling the number of WCCD ISO Certified Canadian municipalities to thirty. This three-year project assists the participating cities in obtaining WCCD’s ISO 37120 Certification, as well as leveraging the data to drive insights, build capacity, and monitor trends. 

For more information: www.dataforcities.org

Showcasing Alberta’s AI advantage

Alberta’s government is supporting artificial intelligence and machine learning, with $9 million in funding for the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii).

The funding includes $4 million from Alberta Innovates and $5 million through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) system, and will allow Amii to continue its world-class research and accelerated commercialization of new technologies. Amii will also help Alberta companies use artificial intelligence and machine learning to find and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and agriculture sectors.

Through the government’s Investment and Growth Strategy, developing Alberta’s technology sector has been identified as a top priority as it will make way for investment and innovation in other industries, including agriculture, aviation, health sciences and energy.

“Alberta is already a world leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning, which creates a strong foundation for our province moving forward. Rest assured your government is here to make sure that Alberta attracts high-growth technology and innovation companies that will diversify our economy and create jobs for today and for the future.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

“The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute at the University of Alberta is in the top five in the world for artificial intelligence research facilities, and works with technology leaders like Google, IBM and Microsoft. Our investment demonstrates that Alberta’s government recognizes the important role that Amii and the University of Alberta plays in creating a stronger economy.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

“For Alberta to reach its full economic potential, we need a strong technology sector with players like Amii, who are at the heart of the artificial intelligence expertise in Alberta. Alberta’s government is taking action to ensure that we are a destination of choice for more innovators and inventors like Amii, where they can develop their ideas into companies and create good-paying jobs.”

Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta

Alberta’s government and Alberta Innovates have been longtime supporters of Amii and its world-class work, such as their recent work with OKAKI, a Calgary-based health technology company working to predict and prevent opioid overdoses.  

Thanks to its innovative and leading-edge approach, Amii has also been able to attract research funding through the private sector, Western Economic Diversification, and $25 million over five years from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  

“Amii exists in large part thanks to crucial investments made by the Government of Alberta, CIFAR and Alberta Innovates – and our partnership with the University of Alberta. With renewed funding, we’re able to continue our trajectory of long-established excellence in AI and machine learning and leverage scientific advancement to speed industry adoption, job creation and innovation for Alberta’s most forward-thinking organizations.”

Cam Linke, CEO, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute

“A century ago, Albertans could never have imagined how innovations like oil sands SAGD technology would yield billions of dollars of economic wealth to the province. The government’s support of technology – including artificial intelligence – has that same potential to bring new jobs, businesses and wealth to Alberta in today’s $16 trillion global artificial intelligence market.”

Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates

“Today’s funding announcement for Amii will unlock tremendous opportunity across our province. Alberta is a global powerhouse in energy, agriculture, life sciences, and manufacturing – we’re also home to the University of Alberta, ranked third in the world for AI research. That combination makes us unique – globally! As a direct result of the province’s funding, Amii will not only drive results for existing businesses, it will be incredibly powerful in attracting the international investment community. This is outstanding news.”

Malcolm Bruce, CEO, Edmonton Global

“These investments in Amii will be key to ensuring Alberta is poised for success. We have incredible potential to diversify the economy, create jobs and strengthen our communities by building on our world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise.”

Janet M. Riopel, president and CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce

The Investment and Growth Strategy is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan – an ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs, now. By building schools, roads, and other core infrastructure, we are benefiting our communities by putting Albertans back to work. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for economic growth. Alberta came together to save lives by flattening the COVID-19 curve and now we must do the same to save livelihoods, grow back our businesses, and thrive as a province.

Quick facts

  • Amii is an Alberta-based non-profit institute that supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and is one of Canada’s three centres of AI excellence.
  • Amii’s mission is to make artificial intelligence and machine learning the primary drivers of economic growth for Alberta – through great research, advisement and education.
  • Alberta’s government is developing sector-specific strategies for diversification that will build off the province’s existing technology and innovation strengths. These include:
  • Agriculture and forestry
  • Aviation, aerospace, and logistics
  • Culture and creative industries
  • Energy
  • Financial services and fintech
  • Technology and innovation
  • Tourism

Canadian town seeking Australian farmers and Agrifood investors

Although rising global temperatures by just two to three degrees will most likely cause crop failures in many other parts of the world, Canada, and more specifically prairie provinces, like Alberta, are seeing the opening up of millions of once frigid acres to the plow.

The community of Parkland County, located 20 miles west of the City of Edmonton, part of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, and located on the CANAMEX corridor, is inviting Australian farmers and investors to explore its opportunities in food/beverage processing, production, logistics and distribution thanks to take advantage of  its strategic location, exceptional infrastructure and easy access to its new agricultural resources

Agriculture represents the largest use of land in the region, with roughly 1.7 million acres of farms covering 80% of the land. Conditions in the region are well-suited for grains, oilseeds, pulses, cannabis, hemp, and livestock production. The region has been making strides in diversifying its agriculture industry, turning to cannabis and hemp as its latest area of focus. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is one of the few locations in the world that has never experienced a region-wide crop failure.

In 2016, Alberta exported approximately $10 billion in agri-food products. Fifty percent of the seed potatoes grown on the 10,000 seed potato acres in Alberta are exported, with the majority of exports earmarked for the USA and other international markets.

Almost all Canadian agricultural air traffic to Asia routes through the Edmonton International Airport due to its 24-hour freight services and shortest-in-Canada flight times.

 According to Ian Jarvis, a senior official with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a government department, in the country’s three prairie provinces alone – vast swaths of flat land in central Canada covering an area more than twice the size of France – the amount of arable land could rise between 26 and 40 percent by 2040!

The community of Parkland County, located 20 miles west of the City of Edmonton, part of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, and located on the CANAMEX corridor, is ideally suited for food/beverage processing, production, logistics and distribution thanks to its strategic location, exceptional infrastructure and easy access to agricultural resources.

For all of the above reasons, numerous food processing companies, including those listed below, chose to locate operations in Parkland County and adjacent areas:

  • Champion Pet Foods established in January 2020 in Parkland County a 421,000 square foot facility that employs about 200 people. Referred to internally as the NorthStar Kitchen, the operation features three dry food production lines (Acana and Orijen dog and cat food) as well as a distribution warehouse and logistics center. Parkland County offers easy access to rich resources and suppliers of proteins, grains and vegetables found in the Prairies.
  • Cargill has a hamburger meat patty plant located in Spruce Grove that produces 3 million hamburger patties a day for global customers including McDonalds Canada. They also produce 1500 tons a day of canola oil and 2000 tons of canola meal for animal feed out of their Camrose facility located 45 minutes outside of Edmonton.
  • Whole Leaf established 11 acres of greenhouses in Coadale, AB that produces 40-60,000 heads of lettuce (6 days a week) supplies all of Wendy’s 300 Canadian chain restaurants.
  • For nearly a decade, Canyon Creek has been creating delicious foods for grocery retailers, restaurant chains, and other foodservice institutions throughout Canada. It operates in both the food service and retail channels and manufactures all products out of a plant located in Edmonton.
  • Started with 600 colonies in 1979, TPLR Honey Farms, located in Parkland County, has since expanded to 3,300 colonies for honey production. Honey produced is sold across Canada and exported to North America and Asia.

“Regarding assets, Parkland County has a wealth of options to offer prospective investors” said, Robert Fernandez, Director of Economic Diversification of Parkland County. “We have fantastic industrial areas in our Acheson Park, which is uniquely positioned on a major transportation corridor. We have ready rail access with spurs into industrial zones that attract a variety of users from heavy industrial, agriculture and logistics.”

Williams Engineering – Using the power of machine learning to optimize business functions

As we move towards economic recovery, the need for businesses to adopt new technologies to improve efficiencies and support long term growth is becoming more and more critical. Increasingly we are seeing a real shift towards understanding how innovation and technology are key to supporting growth across all industries here in the Edmonton Metropolitan region and across the globe. The Edmonton region’s strengths in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have the capacity to capitalize on the opportunities that have emerged as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams Engineering Canada (WEC), an engineering consultancy firm had begun investing in machine learning software even before the pandemic hit. Through a partnership with AltaML, another Edmonton-based company that is focused on applied artificial intelligence, the two organisations are building machine learning applications in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. 

“We’re passionate about designing sustainable infrastructure that contributes positively to the communities that we’re a part of. ML algorithms, when applied to large amounts of data generated by buildings and business processes, will create economic opportunity and transform the AEC industry,” said Naseem Bashir, President and CEO of Williams Engineering Canada when the announcement was made in December 2019. “Being the first to partner with AltaML to develop AI and ML solutions for the AEC industry is exciting and beneficial not only our organization, but for every organization responsible for designing and building infrastructure across Canada. Machine learning and data analytics will augment our people’s ability to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems, enabling new and innovative solutions to emerge. The ability to leverage data enables companies like WEC to make improved decisions and produce greater efficiencies that lead to creating more sustainable infrastructure for the cities and communities where we all live, work and play.”

Adopting these tools are generating a real-world return on investment (ROI) for Williams Engineering where improving efficiencies is helping to make them more globally competitive.

“Typically, one of the most time-consuming parts of what WEC does is the proposal phase,” says Naseem. “We have 180 employees who write between 2,500 and 2,700 proposal a year – this takes a lot of time. An ML tool has the capacity to pull a tonne of data together, learn from it and help our engineers make better and faster decisions – leading to better work and the ability to bid on even more projects.”

It is these sorts of efficiencies that will have the ability to set them apart from their global competitors.

“Disruption breeds opportunity,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “ML & AI have the ability to support businesses in all sectors to become more efficient and productive. Globally, we’re seeing companies that invest in digital approaches, AI & ML, automation, etc. expand and gain market share. Our region is really well positioned to be at the leading edge of this because of companies like AltaML, the huge number of AI graduates from our universities, and the awareness of our business community that we’re at a real turning point in the global economy. Now is the time to take our regional strengths – like our well-developed expertise and talent in AI and ML- and use those to our advantage.”

To learn more about the Edmonton region’s strengths in AI and ML, and how businesses are using these tools to optimize business functions register for our upcoming webinar – Accessing the world’s top AI & ML talent

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