McKercher Leaderboard March 2021
Tech

Betting the Farm: Canada’s First Venture-Capital-Backed Agtech Accelerator

This spring has brought major announcements for projects across Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector. Viterra, Cargill and Ceres Global Ag are each building canola processing facilities, with Viterra and Cargill focused on Regina and Ceres building at Northgate in the province’s southeast. All three will feed the growing demand for canola in plant protein production, animal feed and renewable fuels. Red Leaf Pulp announced that it will construct Canada’s first non-wood pulp mill outside Regina, using locally sourced wheat straw for pulp. Saskatchewan’s own Precision.AI saw a $20 million investment round close in May, and Raven Industries (who acquired DOT Technologies and has Canadian headquarters in Emerald Park, Sask.) struck deals with Agco, BASF and Bosch before its planned acquisition by CNH Industrial, the parent company of Case IH, New Holland, Flexi-Coil and Steyr. It’s been quite the ride for agriculture and agtech, and there’s no sign that the good news is slowing down.

Coming on the heels of the announcement that Conexus Venture Capital (CVC) was the successful candidate to manage Innovation Saskatchewan’s Agricultural Technology Venture Capital Fund, agtech took centre stage yet again in June. Conexus Credit Union’s business incubator, Cultivator, announced its partnership with Economic Development Regina (EDR), and the soon-to-be launched agtech venture capital fund Emmertech, that will be managed and operated by CVC, to create an agtech accelerator. Open to agtech and foodtech companies across the country, the accelerator will also offer an equity investment from Emmertech to companies upon intake, a Canadian first. A cohort will be selected each fall, with programming over the winter months. One cohort will be selected per year, and each company will exit the accelerator with a pitch to a panel of judges at a “Demo Day” to showcase their technology in the hopes of winning prizes.

Conexus and EDR saw the opportunity to grow the agtech sector locally, with a ready set of customers to test ideas in a province that is home to more than 40 per cent of the country’s cultivated farmland. Coupling that with Saskatchewan’s growing tech ecosystem and the presence of leading agtech and agri-value companies, led to the decision to develop and launch an Agtech Accelerator program.

“Technology is driving global agriculture forward, and in order to become a leader in this space, we need collaboration, innovation, and the ability to leverage our strengths,” said Jordan McFarlen, Cultivator Manager, Conexus Credit Union. “Between EDR’s industry connections, access to capital through Emmertech, and Cultivator’s programming, we’ve got the perfect recipe to create a high-performance accelerator and help agtech startups take their companies to the next level.”

Also joining the Agtech Accelerator as a funding partner is Innovation Saskatchewan, with a $300,000 investment over three years. The founding partners have also built agreements with the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic, to explore the opportunities to commercialize related research and development underway at each institution. Further details will be announced soon.

To learn more about the new Agtech Accelerator, visit Cultivator.ca/agtech-accelerator.

The Agtech Accelerator will be open to agtech and foodtech companies from across Canada that focus on (but not limited to):

  • Big data and predictive analytics
  • Supply chain, traceability and sustainability
  • Precision agriculture
  • Robotics and automation
  • Farm management software, sensing and Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Animal health