Ag-West Bio Inc. has more money at its disposal to foster and promote Saskatchewan’s bioeconomy.
The federal and provincial governments are investing $7.5 million over the next five years through Growing Forward 2 to boost its commercialization and marketing efforts.
“That’s an increase of 50 percent from Growing Forward 1,” federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said during Ag-West’s annual meeting in Saskatoon.
Ag-West president Wilf Keller said the new funding arrangement boosts the company’s annual budget by $500,000 per year.
“It allows us to maintain a competent and professional staff,” he said.
The funding will support Ag-West’s primary role, which is to provide entrepreneurs with advice, support and guidance to get emerging agricultural technologies to market.
Keller is pleased the new arrangement is for five years. The previous funding was for three years.
“This gives us a much bigger window for long-term planning,” he said.
Some of the projects Ag-West is working on, such as one that uses industrial oilseed crops to make aviation fuel, can be multi-year initiatives.
“It takes time to get growers to become interested and get the industry involved. It’s very hard to start up and finish off in a three-year cycle,” said Keller.
Other projects are done in collaboration with Japan, China and India, and those can take a while to come to fruition, so it is helpful to extend the funding window by two years.
Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said ag research remains a priority for his government.
“Ag-West Bio’s ability to move research to the market plays an im-portant role in the continued success of Saskatchewan’s economy,” he said.
Ritz told reporters after the an-nouncement that governments around the world are increasingly em-bracing biotechnology.
“Australia is a good case in point,” he said. “They were GM-free and proud of that fact and then they started to recognize that they were sliding behind in market share and the ability to serve that market share, so they’ve embraced GM products.”
The federal and provincial governments will invest $388 million in Saskatchewan on initiatives under Growing Forward 2 over the next five years, an increase of more than $25 million per year over the previous funding program.