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Alberta’s plant-based food sector receives federal support

Parliamentary Secretary Terry Duguid announces more than $2.6 million to help Alberta businesses grow and create jobs

August 12, 2020 – Edmonton, AB – Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD)

Canada’s farmers and agri-food producers have been hit hard by COVID-19. The Government of Canada has taken significant action to help them through this difficult period, and is committed to giving them the tools they need to be part of our economic recovery and emerge stronger and more competitive than before. Innovation is essential to making this a reality, which is why the government is working closely with producers and organizations to help them create jobs and increase production.

Federal support to help agri-food companies develop new products, create jobs

Today, Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), announced more than $2.6 million in federal funding for the Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc, Alberta.

This investment will support the installation of equipment specifically focused on supporting companies to develop new plant-based foods and products. Plant-based foods represent a significant economic opportunity for western Canadian firms seeking to meet growing global and consumer demands for protein-rich foods that are healthy and environmentally sustainable. With Western Canada already producing high-protein pulse crops such as peas, lentils, and chickpeas, the goal of this initiative is to enable agri-food producers to turn these crops into higher value ingredients or finished products before exporting them to markets around the globe.

Operated by the Government of Alberta, the Food Processing Development Centre is a fully equipped pilot plant and product development facilityIt is staffed with experienced food scientists, engineers, and technologists who work with businesses to develop and fine-tune their products. Over the next four years, Government of Canada support will enable the Centre to assist approximately 100 small- and medium-sized companies, and potentially bring up to 30 new products to market.

“Agriculture is a critical piece in Alberta’s Recovery Plan which aims to attract more than $1.4 billion in value-added processing. This investment will enhance the Food Processing Development Centre, which is staffed with experienced food scientists, engineers and technologists who work with entrepreneurs to develop and fine-tune their products, ultimately strengthening and expanding the capability of Alberta’s food processors to meet the challenges of the marketplace. Alberta fully recognizes the value of the Centre and has invested more than $100 million since 1984. We welcome this funding from the federal government which will support Alberta’s plan to attract investment by focusing on sustainable growth and diversity in our crop and food production sectors, while creating stable jobs for Albertans at a time when they need it most.”
– Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

New plant-based manufacturer sets up at EIA

Plant Plus to manufacture plant fibre products in Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre
Sugarcane fiber straw

June 24, 2020 (Edmonton, AB) – More private investment is coming to Edmonton International Airport (EIA) in 2020. Manufacturing company Plant Plus will be establishing their production line in the Edmonton Metro Region as the newest tenant in EIA’s Airport City beginning in early July.

Plant Plus’ Plant Fiber Polymer tech (PFP tech) products are made from natural plant materials and have been shown by various third-party laboratories not to contain or release toxins. They are reusable, recyclable, compostable alternatives to plastic or paper.

“We are excited and proud to join EIA’s business family! It’s a great opportunity to have a strong business partner to support us in our early stages. The goal of introducing integrated plant fiber 2 technology into Canada will finally be achieved, and it will contribute into EIA-AATC’s green system for a better and sustained economic cycle.”

 – Chenghsun Hsu, CEO & Founder of Plant Plus.

“It’s great to see our competitive tax rates, talented workforce and focus on economic diversification attract more private investment to Alberta. This investment is part of our $1.4 billion value-added agriculture investment attraction goal that is slated to create over 2000 new Alberta jobs. I congratulate Plant Plus for choosing to invest in our agriculture sector and to help strengthen Alberta’s economy.”

– Honourable Devin Dreeshen, Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

By locating their production line and distribution centre at EIA and joining the Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre (AATC), Plant Plus will be able to participate in more collaborative opportunities with partner companies on airport and with EIA’s regional commercial partners. This strategic move will allow Plant Plus to introduce their advanced plant fibre technology into Canada. This move will also help strengthen EIA’s strategic efforts to help diversify Alberta’s and the rest of western Canada’s economy, while expanding economic activity at the airport.

Plant Plus utilizes both renewable materials and recycling from agricultural waste. The company produces single use items, like sugarcane straw production, and will provide services for customized products such as reusable cups, mobile phone cases, flower pots, furniture, building materials etc., with an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program, which provides recovery of damaged products and recycling of renewable materials. The net results of their efforts are:
• added value for agricultural industry, by creating additional byproducts
• reduced carbon emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing and shipping, by extending product life cycle, track carbon footprint.
• reduced plastic waste away from landfill and environment.

The Plant Plus team’s products are an innovative solution to the plastic waste problem; a reusable, readily recyclable, and truly compostable alternative to reduce and hopefully remove the use of conventional plastic in a different way. Their most important feature is to recycle products and achieve a circular economy, not just change the materials or extend a product’s service life. By producing a single-use, recyclable product, Plant Plus can help the environment and provide additional benefits. For example, single use items prevent the spread of disease or viruses, help disabled people and have medical uses, all without any worry about the products being damaged or needing to be cleaned. Plant fibre products can function the same way as the plastic products they replace, ensuring that the impact to the user is minimal. The simple answer for the plastic waste problem is that single use items should be compostable, and reusable items should include an EPR program.

“Our region is increasingly known for innovation. Plant Plus’ decision to locate its production and distribution facility at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) will not only benefit our local economy, it will provide a whole new set of sustainable packaging options for the agriculture industry, for health and life sciences, and for a myriad of use-cases that I’m sure we’ll see spring up across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA has established itself as the core hub for international cargo and Plant Plus is about to make our region’s importance to the global supply chain even more clear. Well done and welcome to your new home!”

 – Malcolm Bruce, Edmonton Global CEO.

“This is a perfect example of how Airport City and the AATC work. Plant Plus will import materials and build technology which will increase the production of agricultural products for export from North America.”

– Tom Ruth, EIA President and CEO.

About Plant Plus

Gallop is the brand owner of Plant Plus, which carries true, eco-friendly food and beverage packaging products made by innovative material technology. Since it was founded in 2018, Gallop has been selling Plant Plus straws in North America. For more information visit: https://plant-plus.com/

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 Metropolitan Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian Airport by land area. For more information please visit flyeia.com, or follow @flyeia on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Concordia University of Edmonton and Adventus LifeFoods Inc. announce new residency through BMO-CIAR

Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE) is proud to announce a new residency with Adventus LifeFood Inc. (Adventus) within the BMO Centre for Innovation and Research (BMO-CIAR).

Adventus is joining the BMO-CIAR as the first resident in its state-of-the-art lab, working to develop premium quality multi-functional health food ingredients, nutraceuticals, and a range of natural health products. Through this residency, CUE and the BMO-CIAR will be providing resources, support, and opportunities for Adventus to take the next steps towards commercializing products.

“The BMO-CIAR was designed to be a place for industry and academia to come together and discover what is possible when we work together,” said Dr. Manfred Zeuch, Vice-President External Affairs and International Relations at CUE. “Our doors are open. We are excited to welcome Adventus, and look forward to supporting other local innovators seeking to develop world-class products and services.”

The BMO-CIAR strives to advance industry and community interests by building and strengthening connections between CUE and external partners to turn knowledge and ideas into solutions. From research commercialization to intellectual property protection and business incubation, the BMO-CIAR offers businesses of all sizes opportunities to scale up and drive innovation.  

“Working with CUE and the BMO-CIAR gives us the opportunity to do research, explore market opportunities, and commercialize products that have the potential to change lives,” said Dr. Hassan Qureshi, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Adventus. “We know there is a demand for the kind of health products we are seeking to produce to combat lifestyle diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and we are looking forward to accelerating our development through this residency.”

As a resident at the BMO-CIAR, Adventus will have access to laboratory infrastructure, business development support, and mentorship, as well as opportunities to connect with CUE researchers and partners.

“We believe Alberta is the best place to start and grow a business,” said Dr. Zeuch. “We are proud to be part of our province’s innovation ecosystem, and are looking forward to continuing to collaborate with entrepreneurs, businesses, and industry stakeholders to turn ideas into global success stories.”

Meet our Leaders


Today, Edmonton Global launched a video series entitled “Meet our Leaders” highlighting businesses in key sectors that are primed for growth and investment across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.  

The series shares examples of industry leaders who continue to leverage the unique benefits of doing business in the region. “These videos are part of raising the profile and building awareness of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region among international investors and companies from around the world who are looking to expand,” said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “We all need to share the message that our region is young, educated, and growing. And our Northern location… it’s a strategic advantage. The stories of innovation and success that already exist here are inspiring and will help define the narrative of this great region.”  

The series focuses on leaders in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region who have found success in the following sectors:  

 AI & Tech

Health & Life Sciences

Manufacturing & Advanced Manufacturing

Food & Agriculture

 Energy & Clean Tech

“We want to showcase who we are and what’s happening across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region in a way that causes people to stand up and pay attention to what’s happening right here, right now,” continued Malcolm. “It’s industry leaders like these that are helping define the narrative of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. We have a compelling story to share with the world and now is the time to come together and advance this message.”

Haskap berries: northern Alberta’s new superfood

Haskap berries Photo credit: Sara Jewell Photography

Growing new markets for Canada’s fruit industry

When you bite into a haskap berry and break through the purple-blue skin, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. The tangy tartness cuts through the sweet juice to overwhelm your tastebuds, and before you know it you’re devouring handful after handful. 

Andrew Rosychuk describes haskap berries as “three-quarters blueberry, one-quarter raspberry, with undertones of black currant and elderberry.”

But haskap’s are better, because there’s three times the antioxidants and five times the anti-inflammatories than in a blueberry, he says. 

The global blueberry market is projected to reach $4.5 billion U.S. by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 6.7% according to Mordor Intelligence LLP. That growth is largely driven by increased demand in Asia and Europe where the desire for fresh and healthy berries is increasing faster than production. 

Even with a small initial market share, the potential for haskap berries is substantial.

Andrew Rosychuk. Photo credit: Sara Jewell Photography

A common goal

Rosychuk owns Rosy Farms, a haskap orchard in Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s Sturgeon County. It’s an area with rich farmland, predictable weather, and easy access to global food supply chains.

Rosychuk’s passion for horticulture began as a child, scribbling down notes as he watched Canadian Gardener. That curiosity stuck with him and in 2005 he began planting on his aunt and uncle’s farm just outside Willingdon, Alberta. 

“I planted sour cherries, currants and haskaps as an experiment. I found out that the bugs love the currents, the cherries got eaten by the deer, and I fell in love with the haskaps,” Rosychuk says. 

Rosychuk, who’s spent over ten years working in the trades, bought the 76 acres of land that make up Rosy Farms in 2015. Now he has 26,000 haskap bushes growing there. 

The Alberta-based entrepreneur knew that in order to make the haskap berry industry successful in Canada, farmers would have to work together towards one common goal. 

So he founded the Haskap Alberta Association and also teamed up with 13 other producers to help create North 49 Fruit Corporation, a producer-owned marketing and sales company.

“North 49 is a one of a kind business because it is 100% farmer owned and farmer driven,” says Rosychuk. 

All of the shareholders are aligned, so they have the same caliber of berries, food safety processes and quality assurance processes. 

The Haskap Alberta Association also contributes towards building that unified voice for haskaps, which Rosychuk says is important to educate new growers and gain respect from the government. 

‘Extremely viable’ 

Looking forward, Rosychuk wants to transform the fruit industry in Canada and build long-term relationships around the world for haskap farming stability.

“We’ve never had any industry like this in the prairies before, it’s always been annual agriculture. This is an opportunity to do something different and it is extremely viable,” he says. 

“It’s a blank slate, but it’s not just a blank slate where everything has to start from scratch — it’s a better blueberry.”

Rosychuk says the next step for the industry is to establish the distribution and processing systems that are needed to support haskap production in Alberta.  

Luckily, the Edmonton region has expertise and a competitive advantage in shipping fresh fruits to Asia

A large percentage of Western Canada and northwestern U.S. cherries ship to Asia through the Edmonton International Airport. That’s due to the combination of quick flying times to Asia, regular food-focused cargo routes, and expertise in handling fresh fruits, produce, meats, and other temperature and time sensitive products. 

Rosychuk plans to build a processing facility at Rosy Farms this fall which will be scalable. 

That’s his focus as a 2020 Nuffield Scholar, an award that recognizes agricultural leaders around the world. 

Rosychuk will be exploring the “value in developing on-farm, medium scale processing units giving the primary producer an advantage in capitalizing a value added ingredient or product,” according to the Nuffield Canada website. 

Photo credit: Sara Jewell Photography

In addition to building the new facility, Rosychuk expects to process enough haskap berries in 2020 to break-even, five years after beginning his operation at Rosy Farms. 

“When it comes to unique scalability, it’s the power of the haskap and it’s 100% local,” Rosychuk says. 

Over the winter, haskaps can endure up to minus 50 degrees celsius. The bushes will flower in May, facing downwards to prevent water from collecting and freezing during the chilly spring nights. 

By July, they’ll be ready to be harvested. 

Until then, Rosychuk will continue to build up the industry by sharing the story of the resilient haskap berry, the north’s newest superfood.

Greg Zeschuk – a modern renaissance man

It’s mid-morning on a Tuesday and Ritchie Market at 76 Avenue and 95 Street is bustling. People are lined up to order pour-overs from the coffee bar. The bakery does a brisk business in pastries. Butchers break down fresh meat. A pleasant din rises from tables in a central open area and the adjoining restaurant, Biera.

Greg Zeschuk owns the market, Biera and Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company, the market’s anchor. As he arrives, sporting jeans, a t-shirt and a salt-and-pepper beard, several people greet him by name. 

“I don’t come in and feel excessive pride or anything. I just kinda go, ‘OK great, it’s busy, back to work.’ I kind of have a relentless pursuit for the next thing,” Zeschuk says.

His modest demeanour belies a sensational career: Zeschuk is the co-founder of famed video game company BioWare, and is a retired family doctor with a medical degree from the University of Alberta. In 2018, Zeschuk was named a member of the Order of Canada, the nation’s top civilian honour.

His foray into brewing began with The Beer Diaries, a YouTube show he hosted while living between Edmonton and Austin, and running Bioware’s Texas studio.

“I’d met a lot of the brewers and entrepreneurs that were making beer, and I really fell in love with the concept of it. It was a very creative and dynamic field.” 

By 2007, Zeschuk and co-founder Ray Muzyka had sold Bioware to Electronic Arts (EA), one of the world’s largest video game companies. They both exited BioWare in 2012 and remain in Edmonton.

“I thought, if I’m staying, I’m going to do something fun,” he says. He knew he wanted to build something, and was intrigued by small, neighbourhood breweries he’d seen in Denver and elsewhere, and by the piazzas of Italy.

Ritchie Market came together in a “complex, organic manner,” Zeschuk says. Local, independent businesses heard what he was doing and signed on. It opened in spring 2017.

On this Tuesday morning, Zeschuk is still pumped from the recent launch of Blind Enthusiasm’s latest beer, Measure of Patience. Around 200 people lined up to sample the offering – a barrel-fermented sour beer nearly five years in the making. It spent a year in Sicilian Marsala barrels and six months in the bottle prior to its release.

“It comes out as a more acidic, more wine-like beer. It’s a rare thing, and what’s different for us is, it’s our primary thing, all these unique barrel-aged, barrel-fermented beers,” says Zeschuk.

“The idea of having high-end food with really fine beer is in a handful of places across North America. We’re doing stuff that you would typically find in Toronto, or Chicago, or New York. It shows what you can do here.”

Despite Zeschuk’s technical background, Blind Enthusiasm is an artisanal endeavour.

“There are automation systems that can make 100 times the amount of beer we make in a year in one day, and never touch any ingredients, but that defeats the purpose from our perspective.”

As an example, he points to the Measure of Patience label. “This cutout doesn’t come out right all the time, so sometimes we manually take it off with a razor and place it on again. Stuff like that, which is not good from a business perspective, but it’s part of the love of the process.”

The success of the brewery and the market are intertwined. Zeschuk’s creative streak has tapped into a community ethos hungry for public space to embrace collectivism, and beat back isolationism.   

He’s noticed more regular customers – young and old – and a spinoff effect in the neighbourhood that he hopes will expand to other parts of the city.

“At least a couple hundred people showed up to get this beer on a Sunday in Edmonton. That wouldn’t have happened five years ago. It kind of makes you realize hey, there’s great potential.”

Global talent and IRCC programs and supports for employers

In partnership with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Edmonton Global is hosting two information sessions on global talent and IRCC programs and supports for employers.

Tech Session – Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019, at 14:45:

  • Facilitating Access to Global Talent.
  • IRCC Outreach officers can provide targeted information to help employers address skills shortages and labour market needs when there are not enough Canadian and Permanent Resident workers for available jobs. 
  • Participants will learn about IRCC permanent and temporary economic programs and supports, including International Mobility program work permits that are exempt from a Labour Market Assessment, and Global Skills Strategy which allows employers to hire highly skilled workers faster. There will also be information on how employers can support an employee’s application for permanent residence.

Ag Sector Session – Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019, at 13:30:

  • IRCC Programs and Supports for Employers.
  • IRCC Outreach officers can provide targeted information to help employers address skills shortages and labor market needs when there are not enough Canadian and Permanent Resident workers for available jobs. 
  • Participants will learn about IRCC permanent and temporary economic programs and supports, including International Mobility program work permits that are exempt from a Labour Market Assessment. The differences in International Mobility work permits and those requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), will be explained. There will also be information on how employers can support an employee’s application for permanent residence.

Seating is limited, please RSVP directly to Amanpreet Bhatti, Business Program and Events Coordinator, Edmonton Global abhatti@edmontonglobal.ca.

An honest proposal

How Uproot is growing a regional local food movement.

A company wanting others to grow quickly in their own industry might sound strange to competitors, but that’s exactly what the Uproot Food Collective is all about.

In a spotless kitchen in downtown Edmonton that serves as a food manufacturing facility and head office for Uproot’s two current companies—Honest Dumplings and South Island Pie Co.—there are big plans brewing since humble beginnings at local farmers markets. 

Uproot now has the storage, fridges, equipment and certifications to help speed up their manufacturing processes. Now they want to help local food producers in the region who are ready to grow.

“Uproot is all about helping small companies scale up, so they can go from a couple hundred units being made in a day, or from serving a farmers market, to serving up to 200 mass retail stores.” Allen Yee, COO, explains.

“It’s about growing business in the province,” continues Chris Lerohl, CEO, “Our food industry is a quarter of the size of Ontario and yet we’re the largest supplier of ingredients.”

The abundance of fresh, easily-accessible produce is why Alberta, and the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, are attractive locations for many businesses in the food industry. It also allows Honest Dumplings and South Island Pie Co. to use local ingredients in their fresh products.

“All the flour we use is organic wheat flour from Alberta, while the meat is Alberta high-quality beef, chicken, or bison,” Chris explains, “and other ingredients are dependent on the season. But everything is from Alberta-based buyers; we try to keep as much in the local economy as we can.”

Now, Uproot is thinking big and moving to grow into mass distribution. 

Going from farmers markets and niche supermarkets to the big chains takes a lot more than just scaling production up. With increasing customers comes even more responsibility. Almost every chain supermarket requires that the businesses they trade with be HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certified — an international standard that outlines the requirements for effective control of food safety.

Getting certified is a time consuming and expensive process, which is why it serves as a barrier for small companies looking to break into larger markets. Once Uproot has completed its HACCP certification, it will be an even bigger asset to regional small food manufacturers dreaming of larger markets and having their products hit the shelves. 

It’s about sharing the love, and the knowledge. For Uproot, other companies don’t mean competition, they mean success. 

No small potatoes: How The Little Potato Company is growing a healthier future

In 1996, Angela Santiago and her father, Jacob van der Schaaf, ⁠decided it was time to test out a big idea for little potatoes. 

Angela’s father, a Dutch immigrant, was looking for little Creamer potatoes in a market overflowing with large russets and yukon golds. A little potato with creamy insides was nowhere to be found, so they got to work cultivating small, nutritious, flavourful spuds that cook in no time. 

Angela Santiago with her prized crop. 

Since humble beginnings of testing the market and washing batches of potatoes in a bathtub, the growth of The Little Potato Company has been anything but little. By 2000, Angela and Jacob bought their first plant with modified equipment to handle the specialized needs of Creamer potatoes. Within 4 years they had expanded production in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Angela is currently the CEO, while Jacob is involved in Tuberosum Technologies ― a potato research and breeding company ― that brings the company proprietary potato varietals that they own the rights to. 

This regional success story is no small potatoes. The Little Potato Company is showing how dedication and family created the perfect recipe for a growing market.

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