Canada is a food powerhouse. Agribusiness is a key driver of the Canadian economy, worth over $112 billion annually — which gives the country major appeal as a destination for events related to agricultural production and technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined how crucial this sector is to the global economy, supply chain and the food security of every person — and Canada's central role in all of it. Agribusiness employs 7 percent of the Canadian workforce (2.4 million people) and represents 7.4 percent of total GDP. The sector is supported by 50 national R&D centers, research stations and farms, employing 464 researchers.
"Canada has key advantages in becoming a leader in sustainable food production with its land and water resources, access to international markets, and global reputation as a trusted supplier of safe, top-quality food," says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesperson James Watson.
Central to Canada's excellence in this sector are the numerous agribusiness events it hosts. From industry trade shows spotlighting cutting-edge farming technology to academic conferences presenting the latest findings in crop sciences, business events drive knowledge sharing, economic growth and (especially important during challenging times) resilience in the agribusiness industry. And few places can compete with Canada in providing resource-packed, appealing destinations for these gatherings.
While agriculture and the events that drive the industry thrive in all corners of Canada, executives and event organizers looking to bring their gatherings here will want to give special consideration to six centers of agribusiness across the country.
Kelowna, British Columbia
Kelowna, in British Columbia's picturesque Okanagan Valley, is an agricultural oasis nestled between the Coastal and Rocky Mountain ranges.
The area is home to 794 agri-food businesses, 185 licensed wineries and a cluster of agriculturally focused research facilities, like the University of British Columbia's Okanagan Campus, Okanagan College, Summerland Research Centre and the newly opened BC Technical Access Centre for fermented beverages. These institutions, working with industry associations like the BC Tree Fruits, BC Cherry Growers and Certified Organic Associations of BC, have positioned the region as a leader in areas as diverse as tree fruit and wine research, pest management, and precision technologies tracking crop growth and nutraceuticals.
"When organizations choose to meet in Kelowna they get to experience more than our dynamic culinary and wine scene and area attractions; they also gain access to local industry thought-leaders and innovators shaping what we eat, and where and how it's grown," says Krista Mallory, manager, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the health of farm workers, Kelowna and the wider province of British Columbia has provided a model for safety standards in agriculture, with the wide adoption of guidance from the WorkSafeBC agency. As such a leader in the sector, it makes sense that numerous organizations are bringing their meetings here, including the provincial beekeepers, Canadian Seed Growers Association and International Fruit Tree Association.
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The province of Saskatchewan is a world leader in pulse crops and a major exporter of wheat, mustard seed, canola, flaxseed, peas, lentils, durum and oats. So, it’s no surprise that its capital city, Regina, is an agribusiness powerhouse, or, as it’s sometimes called, “the first stop on the plant-protein highway.” This destination is the headquarters for major players in the agricultural industry such as Farm Credit Canada, Brandt, AGT Food and Ingredients, Avena Foods and Canmar Foods. The city is also home to one of Canada’s five innovation superclusters, Protein Industries Canada (PIC), dedicated to making Canada a leading source for plant proteins. Altogether, this city’s agribusiness sector employs more than 2,000 people, generating $1.06 billion on agribusiness sales and $342 million to GDP — and making Regina an ideal destination for agricultural business events.
This city is home to a number of prestigious agribusiness events including Canada's Farm Show, which is held here every year (excluding 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2021, when it was held virtually). The three-day B2B show promotes the latest in agricultural technology, diversity in farming, and innovation in agriculture, attracting over 30,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors, and $360 million in sales.
Canadian Western Agribition is the largest livestock show in Canada. Agribition, which attracts 1,250 international guests from 86 countries, also hosts an extensive agribusiness trade show. To facilitate livestock improvement and export of agricultural products, an Incoming Buyers Program provides financial support as well as introductions to Canadian breeders, genetics companies, ag businesses and special beef-related events.
The choice of Regina for an event focused on agribusiness innovation makes sense. It was here that Raven’s DOT Power Platform, the world’s largest autonomous agriculture robot was created. The University of Regina’s ISM Canada Centre of Excellence also developed a first-of-its-kind Ag Data Hub, focused on food traceability solutions. Both Agribition and Canada’s Farm Show are held at Evraz place, Canada’s largest interconnected hosting facility with over one million square feet of event space.
Another Saskatchewan agribusiness hotspot is Saskatoon.
"With the combination of the University of Saskatchewan and its affiliated research facilities working alongside our many local experts, Saskatoon is leading innovation in global food security and agriculture research clusters," says Candace Schierling, director of sales for Tourism Saskatoon.
Saskatoon's cluster includes the Global Institute for Food Security, Canadian Feed Research Centre, Crop Development Centre, Livestock and Forage Centre, Global Institute for Water Security, Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre and Canadian Light Source Synchrotron. Global Institute for Food Security, Canadian Feed Research Centre, Crop Development Centre, Livestock and Forage Centre, , Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre and Canadian Light Source Synchrotron. It has drawn groups like Ag in Motion, the largest agricultural trade show in western Canada, providing an outdoor venue for progressive farmers to learn about the latest agricultural innovations in one place, as well as Rhizosphere 5, which drew 420 delegates from 39 countries to its July 2019 edition at the convention centre at TCU Place.
Co-organizer Bobbi Helgason says Rhizosphere 5 chose Saskatoon "because of strong scientific leadership" and the city's long history of rhizosphere science as well as its large investments in rhizosphere research and infrastructure, which positions it as a leader in soil enhancement through nutrient cycling. Helgason adds that a post-conference survey showed "overwhelmingly positive feedback about Saskatoon as a host city."
Next summer, the city will host the 2022 International Bison Convention, organized by the Canadian Bison Association, in partnership with the Saskatchewan and the U.S. National Bison Associations.
Numerous prairie headquarters and agribusinesses make Winnipeg a force in the global industry and a compelling destination for agricultural meetings and conventions. The capital city of Manitoba is the world leader in commodities trading, health and functional food research and innovation, value-add food processing, advanced crop research, and precision agriculture.
It is an exciting time to meet in Winnipeg with 10 major, world-recognized food development and research innovation centers, such as the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals and the soon-to-open world-class Richardson Innovation Centre. In 2018, Winnipeg hosted the International Society of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Congress and is the future host to the 2022 Egg Farmers of Canada Annual Summer Meeting.
"Having 1,800 agribusiness establishments at your fingertips and seven post-secondary educational institutions supporting this sector generates opportunities for strong programming and knowledge-sharing for delegates," says Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.
In fact, cutting-edge research by an impressive network of leading talent and food development entities has strengthened Winnipeg's position as a leader in the industry. Digital agriculture through machine learning and artificial intelligence developed in Winnipeg also contributes to the city's reputation as one of the most advanced agricultural economies in the world.
Québec City, Quebec
Québec City's 400-year history, culture and cuisine paired with authentic, European architecture makes it a highly desirable holiday and business destination. But it is also a hotbed for agribusiness. According to Yves Desjardins, a horticultural professor at Université Laval, "For agricultural conferences, we have a critical mass of researchers. There are 2,000 professors at Université Laval, and when you consider all the research centers around Québec City and the agricultural college, we're the largest critical mass of agricultural and plant science researchers in Canada."
By Desjardins' estimation, there are 1,000 researchers and scientists working in plant and agricultural-related subjects at the federal and provincial agricultural facilities, the Forestry Centre of Canada and faculties of biology in the city.
As a local ambassador who has brought four international events to the city, Desjardins says Québec City Business Destination, Québec City's Ambassadors' Club and the Québec City Convention Centre provide a lot of support for groups. "Québec City is quite nice to visit. It has good facilities for conferences of different sizes, up to 3,000 people, and lots of hotel rooms." There is also easy access by air and rail from Montréal.
Next year, the city hosts the International Conference Insects to Feed the World 2022, in which researchers will present their latest findings on harvesting insects for nutritional purposes.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
When the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA-FCA) looked for a host destination for their 2021 conference, Charlottetown was an easy choice. In part because 42 percent (594,000 acres) of the island's land is farmed, but also for the "tranquil nature of the island," says Laurie Karson, director of communications and stakeholder relations for the CFA – FCA. Though the show eventually had to be hosted virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions, Karson describes being particularly impressed that she could see stars and ocean from the city center.
"Everyone is so kind and welcoming, and the vistas are so beautiful that one cannot help but feel calm and blissful," says Karson. "The CFA has an objective to create an outstanding conference and delegate experience for these farm leaders, and what better location than PEI?"
She adds that off-site networking at the conference, which hosts top farm leaders from Europe, Mexico, United States and Canada, is critical. PEI's small footprint and proximity to farmlands allows the CFA to incorporate farm tours into their agenda. That is among the reasons for its selection to host the International Potato Technology Expo for 2022.
The Island also has a pool of local experts available at the University of Prince Edward Island, which offers studies in applied climate change and adaptation, environment, wildlife conservation, biotechnology and sustainable engineering. Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada maintains a 65-hectare (160 acre) research facility in the city and a 330-hectare (815-acre) research farm, with state-of-the-art greenhouses, which have a heavily research focus on sustainable production systems, managing soil and water resources, pest management for maximum benefit and minimal risk, bioresources and value-added crops. More experts are available from the Atlantic Veterinary College based in Charlottetown.
Canada's vast and varied geography and climate makes it a leader and innovator in a diverse array of agribusinesses — and a smart choice for any agribusiness meeting or event.
In Canada, agribusiness leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world's easiest visa regimes. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada's Business Events team. The team's specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer's first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. To learn about assets, opportunities and to arrange research trips and site inspections please visit businesseventscanada.ca.
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, life sciences, natural resources and more.
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