Saskatchewan Business Year in Review Part 2: Saskatoon and Central Sask

City sees record tech investment, additional potash production, and health science innovations

The second article in Industry West’s four-part year-in-review series reflects on the past year and what lies ahead for Saskatchewan. Moving south to the Paris of the Prairies, we see the Saskatoon area continue to develop its burgeoning tech sector and the renowned potash industry, while also finding new ways to innovate.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and its economic effects, Saskatchewan saw many exciting developments in its industries and sectors. In fact, the province continued to be a leader in job growth, manufacturing and merchandise sales, and broad industry development.

Capital influx for silicon prairie sets records

This fall, four Saskatchewan tech companies made the list of Canada’s Top Growing Companies in the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business Magazine and were ranked by three-year revenue growth: Coconut Software (#120), 7shifts (#133), sMedia (#137), and Vendasta (#316).

This followed the Saskatchewan tech sector seeing record-breaking in the first half of 2021. According to the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, the province saw venture capital investment hit $171 million.

On May 25, 7shifts announced it had raised $21.5 Million in Series B funding. Two days later, Vendasta announced it had raised $119.5 million in investment, which was the largest venture capital round for a Canadian Prairie information and communications tech firm and bested the $40 million record previously set by Vendasta in 2019.

Skyxe Saskatoon Airport

Skyxe Saskatoon Airport

WestJet restores and adds routes before international flights resume at YQR and YXE

WestJet restarted and added routes on July 6, offering non-stop service from Saskatoon to seven cities, and five from Regina. The additional service included flights to Edmonton and Kelowna from Regina, and Edmonton, Kelowna, and Victoria from Saskatoon.

On November 30, international flights resumed from both Regina and Saskatoon airports. The federal government announced that due to vaccine travel requirements phasing in that month, more Canadian airports could have international flights land.

Nutrien increases production by 1,000,000 tonnes

Nutrien announced on June 12 that the company will increase potash production by another 500,000 tonnes in an effort to respond to global market conditions. This followed previous news, where Nutrien said it was to increase production by 500,000 tonnes. Total production will increase by 1,000,000 tonnes from what was anticipated at the beginning of 2020.

Among the highlights in its Q2 2021 financial results, Nutrien saw sales through its digitally-enabled retail platform reach $1.6 billion in the first half of 2021, nearly double the sales compared to the same period in 2020 and it exceeded the full year 2020 results of $1.2 billion in just six months.

More potash as BHP goes all in on Jansen

Later in the summer, BHP announced the company will approve the construction of the Jansen Potash Project. BHP approved a $7.5 million capital expenditure for the project, known as Jansen S1. It is expected to produce 4.35 million tonnes of potash annually, coming online with first ore in 2027. BHP anticipates the creation of 3,500 jobs during construction, and 600 permanent jobs once the mine is operational.

In August, the company secured port services with Westshore Terminals as well. And in a September presentation, BHP said it had made non-binding deals with importers for up to 100 per cent of the production from the Jansen project. BHP also expects potash demand to increase by 1.5 to three per cent annually by 2040.

Northern Nutrients expands in Saskatoon

Saskatoon’s Northern Nutrients, a sustainable fertilizer technology company, announced plans to construct a new $25 million manufacturing facility outside Saskatoon. Construction is expected to start in July, with expected completion in the spring of 2022. The expected production capacity is 28,000 tonnes annually for both domestic markets and export. The company anticipates hiring approximately 30 new employees when operational.

New PPE and medical equipment facility come to Saskatchewan

On November 16, B.C.-based Vitacore Industries announced plans to open its new production facility in Saskatchewan in 2022. Vitacore will also expand its recycling program for single-use masks and respirators in a pilot program with the Saskatchewan Health Authority at Saskatoon’s City Hospital.

The privately-held company launched in 2020 to produce Canadian-made respirators and is the first company to receive Health Canada authorization to produce N95 equivalent respirators in the country.

Saskatoon’s health science innovations get approval

Additionally in medical news, Luxsonic Technologies has received Health Canada approval for SieVRt, the company’s all-in-one Virtual Reality (VR) radiology suite. Which is the first time this type of VR software platform has been approved as a Class 2 Medical Device by a national regulatory agency.

The SieVRt technology uses VR headsets and advanced medical imaging tools to allow radiologists to work anywhere. The software is currently in trial use at Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and McMaster University, and Luxsonic expects U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in early 2022.

Also, Iotron Medical Inc. (Iotron) and Canadian Isotope Innovations Corp. (CIIC) announced a collaboration to produce the radioisotope copper-67 (Cu-67) for new cancer therapies. This investment will increase the production capacity of the CIIC-operated facilities in Saskatoon to make Cu-67 more widely available to international cancer researchers.

Cu-67 is known for its therapeutic properties for cancer, but due to production issues in quantity and purity, it has not been fully explored by researchers. The partnership between Iotron Medical and CIIC will provide a reliable supply of Cu-67 for researchers and companies, and creates a world-first private producer and supplier with a novel production method to supply high-purity Cu-67 for pharmaceutical researchers.

SaskPolytech opens Digital Integration Centre of Excellence

October 12 saw the opening of the Digital Integration Centre of Excellence (DICE) at Innovation Place in Saskatoon. The new Saskatchewan Polytech centre is the province’s first Technology Access Centre funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Innovation Saskatchewan.

DICE provides digital solutions with a focus on data, including cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, asset monitoring and management and more.

AGT Food and Ingredients Opens New Grain Facility near Saskatoon

On July 14, AGT Food and Ingredients opened its newest facility in Delisle. The $65 million project has the capacity to process up to 1,000 tonnes of grain per hour. The facility will serve central Saskatchewan, handling durum, lentils, peas and other grains.

New Investment in Agri-Food by Federal Government

Prairies Economic Development Canada announced on November 12 that it will provide $1.5 million in funding to the Global Agri-Food Advancement Partnership (GAAP), a not-for-profit organization established by Ag-West Bio (AWB), the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan, Innovation Place and the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre (Food Centre).

The funding will allow GAAP to further help agri-food companies advance their technologies for the marketplace and provide support including access to greenhouses and laboratories at Innovation Place and GIFS; scale-up and acceleration assistance including connections to customers; equity investment; and programs for companies (including international) to establish presence in Western Canada.