July 20th, 2018

Business Beat: Powering growth

By Medicine Hat News on March 14, 2018.

Controlled environment agriculture raised over $10 billion in 2017, representing nearly a 30 per cent increase over 2016. Within that, investment into novel farming systems rose 200 per cent as companies got serious about how to grow as much food as efficiently as possible.

Novel farming systems includes what are essentially greenhouses, growing systems and the technology that increases growing efficiency.

Investments are highlighted by Silicon-valley startup Plenty, which raised a record-setting $200 million with its plan to erect greenhouses next to China’s largest cities. Elsewhere, Sundrop Farms raised $100 million to erect a 20-acre solar-powered greenhouse in the South Australian desert. Both projects claim to use significantly less water and land than traditional farming methods while the large scale of the operations is expected to keep food costs in line with those associated with traditional farming. They also highlight the reduced dependency on soil and weather.

With significant global attention being paid to greenhouses and the technology related to growing crops, it’s worth examining Medicine Hat’s long history with greenhouses and its role in the new, tech-driven sector of controlled environment agriculture.

Medicine Hat is home to Alberta’s largest greenhouse cluster, representing approximately 45 per cent of the province’s total growing area, up from 41 per cent in 2013. This includes Alberta’s largest greenhouse, a 1.5 million-square-foot facility relying on city-generated electricity.

The city-owned electric utility is one of the only municipally-owned power generators in Canada. The advantage there is in the elimination of transmission costs, which can potentially yield millions in annual savings for a one-million-square-foot operation.

When it comes to market access, Medicine Hat has that covered as well. The city is located at the junction of Highways 1 and 3, providing same day access to over four million people in Canada and the United States. If global distribution is the play, Medicine Hat is a direct shot to Vancouver, providing access to the world.

For controlled environment agriculture investors and operators, electricity and market access are two major factors when deciding where to locate a new facility. Medicine Hat has access to both, along with a long history in greenhouse vegetable production. As the industry continues to evolve, Medicine Hat is in a position to help companies expand.

Ryan Jackson is the general manager for Invest Medicine Hat, is the city’s economic and business development initiative whose role is to uncover and promote business opportunities in Canada’s sunniest city. For more information on investment opportunities, visit http://www.investmedicinehat.ca

 

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