UFA focuses on technology

The partnership between the United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative Ltd. and SVG Ventures | Thrive will look at technological changes that can improve livestock efficiency and health, but it will also include other farming practices as well.  | Paula Larson photo

A century-old farmers’ co-operative is joining forces with a major agtech investor to help Alberta producers deal with looming technical changes.

Farmers must expand production to help feed an expected global population of more than nine billion people by 2050 while reducing emissions to net zero, said Don Smith, vice-president of petroleum and innovation at United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative Ltd. (UFA).

UFA has formed a strategic collaboration with SVG Ventures | Thrive, which has built a private global network of more than 5,000 startups across 100 countries, he said.

“And they’ve already got corporate partnerships with a lot of major ag companies around the world, and it’s really someone that can bring a lot of that expertise to bear for the Alberta farmer.”

Thrive is a business accelerator program that supports start-up companies through their infant stages. It was established by venture capital fund SVG Ventures, which is headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley area.

It has a portfolio of more than 50 investments in the agricultural sector, including seven in Canada.

“We chose them because their focus on ag tech is one of the best in the world,” said Smith.

“UFA is geared to add value, and to improve the social and economic well-being of our farmer and rancher communities. And we really believe that this is a role that UFA can play effectively on behalf of our members, and find those technologies that are going to boost western Canadian production and make it even more competitive than it already is.”

UFA has more than 120,000 member-owners. It includes 34 Farm and Ranch Supply stores and 111 bulk fuel and cardlock petroleum locations.

“Technology changes rapidly, especially in the agricultural industry, and we recognize the need to start driving it for our members,” Scott Bolton, president and chief executive officer of UFA, said in a statement.

Although such changes include improving livestock efficiency and health, UFA plans to look at all farming practices, said Smith.

“I wouldn’t say we’re looking at any specific type of technology. We’re open to anything that is going to provide that value back to our members.”

Producers are increasingly seeking solutions during an era where federal carbon taxes are to rise to $170 per tonne by 2030, he said.

“All of our farmers and ranchers already act in a sustainable and responsible way, and we want to help them improve that.”

As part of an agreement with UFA, SVG Ventures | Thrive plans to run an annual industry and technology trends workshop for UFA members.

It will aim “to share key innovation gaps, visualize solutions and opportunities from startups, and promote cross-collaboration for innovation,” said the statement. “It also allows for participation in cross-country workshops, and events and connection with industry peers.”

SVG Ventures | Thrive works with partners ranging from Farm Credit Canada and ATB Financial to media companies such Forbes, along with corporations such as Bayer, Kubota, Western Growers, Land O’Lakes and Taylor Farms, said the statement.

The Alberta government announced last year it was providing $200,000 for a partnership between SVG Ventures | Thrive and Olds College in Alberta.

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