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Business incubator expands

Food companies that are not yet big enough to build their own processing facilities can rent suites at the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator. This photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic. | Alberta Agriculture photo

An Alberta facility that helps establish and expand agri-food businesses will itself be expanding thanks to $24 million from the provincial government.

The Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator in Leduc will be able to provide more space for people to develop products without having to risk building their own manufacturing facilities, said director of operations Dan Graham.

“It’s a gamble to invest in bricks and mortar,” he said.

“When you only have small volumes, you have to have a lot of confidence in your product, and this facility helps them absorb some of the risk.”

The provincial funding will pay for a 25,000 sq. foot expansion of the business incubator, including three additional suites of about 5,000 sq. feet each. The project adds to seven suites within the existing 75,000 sq. foot facility, he added.

Suites are rented to people or companies, providing spaces for them to bring their own equipment to conduct food processing. The incubator is managed by Alberta Agriculture’s food and bio processing branch.

“The purpose of the incubator is to assist start-up companies to establish a market presence, provide serviced facilities to develop and refine production techniques, share experiences with other entrepreneurs and take advantage of economies from sharing services and facilities.”

Thirteen companies have entered into agreements with the incubator since it opened in 2007, said Graham in an email.

“We estimate that those companies have invested over $60 million as a direct result of their time at the (incubator).”

The money for the expansion is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, which aims to create 90,000 jobs by spending $20.7 billion on infrastructure projects under the provincial government’s 2021-24 Capital Plan. Of that amount, $825 million will be for new projects during the next three years, said a provincial statement.

“After a year of unprecedented hardship, Alberta’s economy is showing signs of recovery, and Alberta’s government will be there to support that recovery with major investments in new projects that build the architecture of Alberta’s future economy,” said Premier Jason Kenney in the statement.

The facility’s 25,000 sq. foot expansion is funded under the Alberta government’s COVID-19 recovery plan. | Alberta Agriculture photo

Besides helping spark new businesses, the incubator aims to attract established companies to Alberta.

“We’ve had feedback from people both from outside Alberta, but in Canada, and people from other parts of the world that have told us things like, we have a world-class facility,” said Graham in an interview.

As a multi-tenant facility that is operated as a not-for-profit business, the incubator meets federal food regulations. It is inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, allowing resident companies to market products such as meat internationally as well as nationally, he added.

Graham said Alberta has the proven potential to develop new businesses and industries from the agriculture sector.

“We’ve graduated companies through here that have gone on to set up their own facilities in the province and expanded their business, so I’m confident that the prospect is very good for companies coming here.”

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