RELO Podcast Episode 5: Growing Innovation

Regina has become a lot of things. The seat of government in Saskatchewan, a destination for events and tourism, an audacious entrepreneurial ecosystem. The list goes on.

But at its core, Regina has always remained an agricultural hub. We are inextricably tied to the land around us, and our prairie pride is rooted in a strong farming tradition.

And while our link to food is as important as ever, the agricultural sector is a vastly different beast than it was in 1884. New technology and new crops have transformed the ag landscape.

Murad Al-Katib founded AGT Foods in 2001 on the belief that pulses, previously seen as a fringe crop skew, held untapped potential. Today, AGT is one of the largest suppliers of value-added pulses, staple foods, and food ingredients in the world. The company has experienced substantial growth thanks in part to what Al-Katib calls a “consumer revolution” towards more sustainable plant-based foods.

It’s worth stressing that this revolution isn’t just rhetoric or wishful thinking on the part of AGT Foods. Global consumption is trending substantially towards plant-based foods. In fact, Protein Industries Canada projects that the demand for plant-based protein will nearly double over the next five years. In two years, Maple Leaf Foods has invested three-quarters of a billion dollars in plant-based alternatives to its traditional meat offerings in order to compete with American companies like the explosively popular Beyond Meat, and hopefully gain market share with “the consumer of the future”.

In order to meet the growing demand created by this consumer of the future, Al-Katib believes technology-driven efficiency is key. Luckily, there’s already a generation waiting in the wings to embrace these new ag tech opportunities. Jordan McFarlane is the Manager of Conexus Credit Union’s new business incubator, dubbed Cultivator, which recently brought together designers, coders, engineers, ag specialists and business visionaries for their second 24 Hour Start-Up event. During the event participants form teams and have 24 hours to develop a minimum viable product which addresses a real business challenge, in this case within the ag tech space.

This kind of boot-strapped innovation isn’t new for the Regina area. Time and time again, Saskatchewan companies have brought homegrown innovations to the world stage, solving global ag challenges.

Beit new and innovative crops or budding start-ups, Regina is and always will be a place where things grow. As the city itself grows in size and population, the abundance of transformative ideas and opportunities continue to grow as well.

Thank you for listening to the RELO Podcast, and be sure to read the full Regina Executive Leadership Outlook Report for the full story.