SFU-led B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation announces first four projects

January 26, 2023

Four B.C. businesses developing solutions to help ensure the province’s food systems remain secure, resilient and sustainable are the first to receive funding and partner with the Simon Fraser University-led B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation (BCCAI).

A total of $540,000 has been invested in projects being developed by the four companies, including $122,500 from BCCAI , $122,500 from the businesses and an additional $295,000 from in-kind contributions. The four companies, all located in Metro Vancouver, are:

  • Aeroroot Systems (Surrey),
  • Agrotek Industries (Burnaby),
  • Bakerview EcoDairy (Abbotsford), and
  • Lucent BioSciences (West Vancouver)

"Investment in agriculture is the best way to fight hunger, poverty and climate change,” says SFU’s Sylvain Moreno, the scientific director of BCCAI. “These four champions are leading B.C. agritechnology revolution and will guide British Columbia toward a better future."

The BCCAI, announced by the provincial government in July 2022, brings together academia, industry and government to create new opportunities towards food production and security.  Located at SFU’s Surrey campus, the BCCAI is funded by the province and the federal government through Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCAN).

“As we build Canada’s agriculture sector for the future, the Government of Canada will be here to support innovative, inclusive projects like the ones announced today to ensure the sector’s prosperity and competitiveness for years to come.” said Francis Drouin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Member of Parliament for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, on behalf of the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for Pacific Economic Development Canada.

The centre is expected to create 200 jobs and help train more than 700 workers, while adding 30 new agritech projects throughout the province by 2025.

“We need to be continuously innovating and working together to improve local food production and access to food for people here in B.C. and around the world,” said Pam Alexis, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture and Food. “Agritech is the future and the work these four companies are doing in partnership with the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation is helping ensure B.C.’s food systems are secure, resilient and sustainable.”

The first projects supported by the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation were unveiled at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford. Each is contributing to long-term priorities of agriculture in B.C. including Indigenous food security, vertical farming, and increased and sustainable crop production. It is anticipated that these projects will be farm-ready for commercialization in two years, creating over 30 well-paying jobs.

“SFU is grateful for the generous support from the federal and provincial governments to advance the vital work of the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation and our partners,” said Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president research and international,. “We are pleased to be working with academic, industry and community partners across the sector to improve food security locally and globally, create jobs and position B.C. as a world leader in the agritech space.”

Details on agritech projects receiving support

  • Aeroroot Systems is developing quality standards for basil cultivation using vertical farming. Aeroroot designs vertically automated aeroponics growing equipment called AeroWalls, allowing farmers to grow crops anywhere with no soil and 90% less water. Cultivation trials using the Aerowall equipment will be conducted inside a greenhouse at Kwantlen Polytechnic University to develop best management practices. The project represents as much as $34,000 in investment.

  • Agrotek Industries, an Indigenous-owned fertilizer and biostimulant manufacturing company, will test the effects of an innovative and organic soil amendment on blueberry plants and grapevines grown in the Okanagan through its $186,000 project. The company also wants to test its products on greenhouse crops. Agrotek products use naturally sourced ingredients extracted from Canadian mines. Agrotek is partnering on the project with the Westbank First Nation Indian Band, IAS Labs, Wapaw Bay Inc. and Simon Fraser University.

  • Bakerview EcoDairy in Abbotsford experiments with new technologies and innovations in sustainable agriculture, including rice cultivation. The company is using hydroponic farming systems to enhance rice-growing capacity on the Lower Mainland and is partnering with the *University of Fraser Valley and with Granville Island’s Artisan Sakemaker to make sake from rice grown on the farm. UFV researchers are monitoring demonstration field plots to examine different methods of weed control for rice. The company’s project represents a $53,000 investment to help develop a sustainable method to address weed control, which is a major challenge in rice production.

  • Lucent BioSciences accelerates sustainable agriculture by delivering crop nutrition that improves yield and soil health while sequestering carbon. Lucent is looking to develop a new fertilizer called Soileos copper as an important essential plant micronutrient. Copper-deficient soils cause significant yield loss and the company’s $267,000 project will assess copper application on various crops cultivated in a controlled environment. Lucent is partnering with SFU on the project.

*This article was corrected on August 15, 2023. University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) has been working with BCCAI on agritech projects including one of its first projects with Bakerview Ecodairy.