The Canadian province of Saskatchewan’s agri-food industry has celebrated the grand opening of the new Agri-Food Innovation Centre (AFIC), a 43,000-square-foot facility that will diversify the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre’s capacity to develop and process products from concept to commercialization.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay; Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains; and Premier Brad Wall joined representatives of the Food Centre in officially opening the $17.5 million facility in Saskatoon.
“The government of Canada is committed to growing a strong economy. Centers of innovation, like this one in Saskatoon, will play a key role in creating jobs and new opportunities for Canadian farmers and agri-businesses, growing the economy and the middle class,” Goodale said.
The Food Centre is the primary source of food product development and commercialization for the Saskatchewan food industry. The creation of the Agri-Food Innovation Centre supports the expansion of Saskatchewan’s agri-food processing sector and introduces a dedicated multi-tenant food processing incubator, extrusion line, expanded drying capabilities and fermentation technologies. It will also house new labs, a pilot plant for product and process development, and expanded capacity for pulse and cereal processing. The Food Centre will continue to operate the federally inspected pilot plant housed on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
“Over the last decade, Saskatchewan has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 agri-food exporter among the provinces, and the Food Centre helps us diversify what we export. The Centre already produces ‘meat’ products made from plants, like ginger beef and chicken fingers, and through the years has helped Saskatchewan companies like Three Farmers and Zak Organics commercialize their products,” Wall said. “This expansion will mean the development of even more products, the creation of more jobs and the further diversification of our economy.”
“The new Agri-Food Innovation Centre will broaden the capabilities of the current Food Centre and open new opportunities for Saskatchewan’s agri-food sector,” said Dan Prefontaine, Food Centre president. “It will assist Saskatchewan producers and processors to bridge the gap from development to commercialization and introduce higher value-added agricultural products into the global marketplace. With support from our industry and these enhanced services, the Agri-Food Innovation Centre will position our industry to be strong leaders in innovation and technology for the food processing sector.”
Construction of the Agri-Food Innovation Centre was made possible with $9 million through Growing Forward 2, the federal-provincial agricultural policy framework, and $4.35 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada. Additional support came from SaskPulse, SaskCanola and other industry organizations and the Food Centre’s capital reserve.
Since its inception in 1997 as a nonprofit organization, the Food Centre has worked with clients representing various sectors of the food industry and developed more than 800 products.
More than 300 food processing companies in Saskatchewan produce a wide range of cereal, meat, dairy and bakery products, and food ingredients. These processors ship goods valued at approximately $4.3 billion annually.