Investment opportunities in Alberta’s emerging industries

Emily Kneteman, Regional Director, Alberta, Invest in Canada

Skyline of Calgary, Alberta

The Alberta economy is undergoing a transformation.  Known globally for its traditional oil and gas industry, this province has a lot to offer Canada and the world, beyond petrochemicals. Alberta is a province rich in resources, brilliant talent, breathtaking landscapes, and promising sectors emerging from its traditional industries. From cleantech and renewable energy to agriculture and artificial intelligence, Alberta’s emerging industries offer plenty of opportunity for innovation and investment.

Building on energy expertise to become a leader in cleantech

Alberta’s oil and gas industry is world-renowned and an integral part of the economy. As the world explores a low-emission future, the oil and gas industry is poised to be a leader in the development and integration of clean technologies and renewable energy.  

From 2008-2015, global clean technology exports increased by roughly 4%, and the value of these exports reached nearly $1.2 trillion annually. It is projected that this industry will rise to $2.5 trillion by 2022, and Alberta has the capacity to serve this global market.

Innovation is already taking place in Alberta. The number of companies in cleantech and renewable energy in Alberta continues to grow, with 155 cleantech firms operating in the province in 2020.

Not only are these companies servicing the Alberta ecosystem, but they are also generating interest from international companies and investors. Of the 20 companies inducted into the Norway-based Techstars Energy accelerator, 4 were from Alberta. In 2019, Calgary, the province’s largest city, ranked as one of the world’s top 15 clean technology start-up ecosystems by Startup Genome.

Although most cleantech companies in Alberta are focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in oil and gas, these companies are also expanding into industries such as agriculture and food processing. For example, Alberta-based Radicle (formerly Carbon Credit Solutions) won the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 program and has created a software platform to measure, qualify and aggregate greenhouse gas emissions across multiple sectors.

Alberta is well-positioned to be a leader in cleantech and renewables for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because it is a province built on energy, with the expertise and capacity to continue developing all of its energy assets. Rystad Energy has predicted that by 2025, Alberta will host 83% of Canada’s utility-scale wind and solar capacity. In addition, the province has committed to stop burning coal within 10 years, which will allow for an expansion of renewable energy capacity.

When you think about Alberta’s energy industry, don’t just think of oil and gas. This region has a lot to offer in all things energy, and in other industries.

Improving efficiencies in agriculture with agritech

Farmland in Alberta covers over 50 million acres, approximately one-third of the province. Wheat, canola, oats, and pulse crops represent 19.3% of Canada’s total agri-food exports, giving this region a solid base for the expansion of agri-technology and food science.

This industry is growing beyond conventional farming methods. The drive for optimization and efficiency comes from a combination of increasing pressures from consumers, climate change effects and narrow margins. Alberta is at the forefront of developing and adopting agri-technology, from the utilization of GPS to reduce waste, monitor erosion and provide better crop management for farmers, to the Olds College Smart Farm applied research pillar and integrated learning program.

Large multinationals, such as BASF, Cargill and Bayer Crop Science, have long been fixtures of the Alberta agriculture industry. New companies such as Livestock Water Recycling are developing innovative technology and attracting large investors. This year, Alberta-based Decisive Farming—a company focused on precision agronomy, crop marketing and access to experts—was acquired by the Canadian telecom, Telus.

When companies choose to invest and grow in this region, they gain access to talent and customers required to test products. Over 75,000 people are employed in agriculture in Alberta and multiple training institutions offer programs in horticulture, food safety, livestock genetics, crop science and veterinary sciences.

In addition to a strong and growing talent pool, the Government of Alberta continues to announce policies and funding to support agriculture and agri-tech. This year, investment of more than $800M was announced in irrigation projects throughout the province to accelerate the growth of this industry.

Given its strategic advantages, global investors will continue to choose Alberta as a place to develop and produce products that meet the changing demands in the global food and agriculture markets.

Developing the artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies of the future

The province of Alberta is well-known for its energy and agriculture sectors. It has, however, more recently received recognition for advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Alberta ranks 3rd in the world for AI and is home to 1 of 3 Canadian AI hubs (the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute). The provincial government has invested more than $40 million in this growing and critical sector. Global investors are choosing Alberta as the prime location to launch AI companies focused on all industries, not only on oil and gas.

As Alberta’s AI and machine learning sector grows and attracts top talent, it is receiving international attention. Alberta-based AltaML, founded by the co-founder of Investopedia, has partnered with Silicon Valley-based PROTXX to expand the data analytics capabilities of the PROTXX healthcare platform and support automated diagnoses of neurodegenerative medical conditions.

A highly skilled workforce is a key component of a thriving AI industry. Alberta has world-class institutions that are helping expand the province’s talent pool, including the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). AI heavy weights such as Deep Mind and Google have clustered in the province, attracted by the availability and quality of talent that are fostered by these institutions.  

The oil and gas sector alone in Alberta is projected to spend $1.9 billion on digital transformation projects from 2019 to 2022 and other industries are following suit. As such, opportunity abounds for AI and machine learning companies to develop solutions to improve optimization and efficiency within this large customer base.

Alberta’s economy pursuing changes

With a strong and multifaceted energy industry, a rapidly evolving agriculture industry, and a developing artificial intelligence and machine learning sector, Alberta is ready to excel in global markets and support an ever-changing global economy. The province will continue to innovate within its traditional sectors that have been the backbone of development for decades, while working with advanced industry to create the best talent and most innovative companies.

This collaborative transition creates countless opportunities for foreign direct investment. At Invest in Canada, we are committed to working with investors to help facilitate and accelerate projects. If you’re an investor and would like to learn more about Alberta, contact us now.