ACCESS TO MARKETS
Highway 16 (also called the Yellowhead) and Queen Elizabeth II highways offer easy and direct access to North American export markets in all directions, while both Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) provide efficient rail transport.
- Edmonton is the northernmost point on the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, which links the region to major mid-west American cities and the Texas Gulf Coast.
- The city provides quick access to the North American Super Corridor (NASCO), which connects to midwest and southern U.S. markets and ports.
- The city’s Anthony Henday Road, completed in the fall of 2016, is the province’s first ring road. The $1.8-billion, 80-kilometre ring offers a highly efficient transport route around the city, to the airport and toward eastern and western markets.
- In early 2016, the federal, provincial and municipal governments announced a $1-billion plan to ease congestion on the 25-kilometre portion of the Yellowhead Highway that passes through the City of Edmonton. This corridor sees traffic volumes of up to 81,000 vehicles per day — almost 20 per cent of which are transport trucks. Scheduled to begin in 2021, the project will eliminate traffic signals and intersections, converting the road from an expressway into a freeway.
Direct cargo flights regularly depart Edmonton International Airport, about 30 km south of the city’s core, to cities such as Chicago, Memphis, Cincinnati and Seattle in the United States, Shanghai and Tianjin in China and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The EIA Cargo Airport boasts a more-than-90-per-cent on-time rate in 2017 for service, is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and has the capacity and expertise to handle perishables and cold storage, crucial to exporting food products.
It’s also located within the Port Alberta Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), reducing trade barriers and enhancing access to Canadian markets.
Alberta is the third-largest exporter of food products in Canada, behind Ontario and Quebec. The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation works closely with all levels of government to help food companies access a wide range of supports, from grants and funding to seminars and workshops in how to start a business, to trade missions to viable markets to grow exports.
The Edmonton region is home to a variety of provincial government-funded facilities—such as the Food Processing Development Centre and the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator (the latter the beneficiary in 2016 of a $10-million infusion from the Alberta government that will see about 2,300 square metres added to its 7,000 square metres by 2019)—where startup companies can hone their products from inception to export.
According to the provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s business plan for the period ending in 2019, “Investing in innovation, value-added agriculture, food and forest products expands revenues and makes a valuable contribution to Alberta’s Economic Growth and Diversification Strategy.” Some key takeaways from the plan:
- In 2015, Alberta’s top export markets for agri-food products were the United States (about 40 per cent of total exports), China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. Exports of manufactured foods to these five countries were worth about $4.2 billion, and the provincial government aims to increase that number to nearly $4.9 billion by the end of 2019.
- The ministry aims to support the development of 226 new agri-food products for market in 2018/2019, and 228 in 2018/2019.
- The government plans to grow its funded collaborations with food-products industry investors for research and development from $5.2 billion in 2015 to $6.3 billion by the end of 2019.
The provincial government’s Alberta Innovates is also heavily invested in promoting research into the use of food ingredients for non-food purposes, a cutting-edge example being the government’s CNC Challenge 2.0.
- Of the 38 organizations that applied to join the CNC Challenge 2.0, 11 were each awarded up to $25,000 in funding and the use of the Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures pilot plant— one of the few in the world capable of producing high-quality CNC in kilogram volumes—for research and development of innovative uses for plant-fibre cellulose.
- The most abundant organic polymer on earth, CNC is biodegradable and non-toxic and has rich potential in the fields of health and energy, among others.