2016 marked a significant milestone for BC agriculture and IAF, as we celebrated our 20th anniversary in Abbotsford last April. Along with industry and government, IAF directors and staff reflected on a rich collaboration that has fueled agri-food industry growth, competitiveness and sustainability across the province.

IAF’s formation in 1996 proved a pivotal turning point in BC’s agricultural evolution, with industry gaining unprecedented management of federal adaptation funding. Starting with the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund and closing with the Canadian Agricultural and Adaptation Program, the adaptation era represents more than $21 million of project investments in BC alone.

While dozens of funding programs have come and gone through IAF’s tenure, each has indelibly contributed to BC’s agricultural legacy. But don’t take our word for it— in 2016, IAF commissioned R.A. Malatest & Associates to complete an impact study to assess the economic, environmental and social impacts of government investments delivered by IAF and the results speak for themselves.

For funding recipients through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, federal-provincial funding allowed many to pursue more thorough research than would have been otherwise possible. Not only did project support result in new product lines for some, but several credit the funding for contributing to broader social and environmental impacts.

Michael Gilbert, founder of SemiosBio Technologies Inc. (Semios), is one of many who has witnessed multiple benefits unfold through his project. Considered a pioneer of precision farming in BC, Semios offers advanced technological services that combines data management science with agricultural best management practices. Using Innovation funding, Gilbert was able to implement and enhance a cost-effective application of pheromones for codling moth mating disruption. Not only has this allowed orchardists to minimize their use of inputs and reduce environmental impacts, but the Semios system also protects biodiversity by only applying species-specific pheromones that do not affect beneficial insects. But the benefits don’t stop there. According to Gilbert, funding to develop the new technology also allowed him to significantly grow his enterprise in terms of managed land and workforce. “The Semios team grew from five employees to thirty over the course of the project,” says Gilbert, adding that they have since expanded from managing only a couple hundred acres to nearly 13,000, comprising nearly 200 new clients.

Enhancing production and sharing best management practices is a cause shared by the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission (BCCMC). Thanks to government funding delivered by IAF through the Agri-food Futures Fund, the BCCMC embarked on a five-year project to develop the BC Cranberry Research Farm, the first research facility of its kind in Canada and the fourth in North America. While the Farm was created with the aim of increasing cranberry production within Canada, it has drawn considerable interest—even longing—from all over the continent. “We’ve had many cranberry researchers from all over North America, standing there with envy in their eyes wishing they had a centre like this to work at,” recalls Jack Brown, BCCMC chair. In addition to providing BC growers with information to improve their plantings, researchers are also exploring the impacts of cranberry production on greenhouse gases, insect populations and soil and groundwater.

For Brian and Corin Mullins, owners of HapiFoods Group Inc., funding through the BC Buy Local Program and the BC Agrifood and Seafood Export Program was indispensable in securing their now iconic Holy Crap cereal in both local and international markets. Thanks to in-store demos that served almost 7,000 samplers, Holy Crap sales soared from four bags to 25 bags per day in BC chain stores like Whole Foods Market, Overwaitea, Save on Foods, Choices Market and London Drugs, as well as at smaller independent grocery stores in BC. HapiFoods then moved into the international arena, focusing on US and Asian markets, including Japan, China and Korea. Export funding enabled them to participate in 17 tradeshows that have created international brand awareness and generated international trade potential for the burgeoning enterprise. “We would probably have done 10 to 15 percent of what we did if we were on our own,” Corin estimates. “Export and Buy Local funding was critical to our company’s growth by providing us with the means to ramp up production and marketing.”

These are just some of the many stories that illustrate the very tangible impacts that these investments have made over the years.

Since its inception, IAF has delivered $192 million in government funding to more than 1,700 projects that are helping to stimulate sizable growth for farm, food and processing businesses across the province. In terms of economic impact, the Malatest study found these investments leverage $1.85 for every dollar, totaling $355 million! Although funding programs and priorities have changed over the past two decades, the focus of IAF remains steadfast – to support industry through each challenge and opportunity, building a stronger, more adaptive community and securing BC’s place as a leader in agricultural production.

Funding: $140,000 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative (INN018); $218,133 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia (A0678.01, A0678.02); $44,326 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, and the BC Government’s Buy Local Program (BL151, EX017, EX017.02, EX069, EX069.02, EX203, EX317, EX347).

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