About a year ago while on the phone with an associate of the Canadian Business Incubation Association (CABI) surrounding food incubators in Canada, the Academic Entrepreneur learned of the Food Processing Development Centre near Edmonton in Leduc, Alberta, Canada. The centre houses a “sister” incubator that is a model for others in the area of food innovation and food processing for others to emulate. In fact, visitors from all over the world frequently tour its facilities and communicate with its directors, managers and clients in order to learn more about how its model might be transferred to their own local regional contexts. The incubator turns “good ideas into products that sell”.
The rebirth of incubation globally in the ’10’s and the growth of food incubation, along with the centre’s innovative approach and university collaboration has led the Academic Entrepreneur to christen the Food Processing Development Centre’s exemplary incubator Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator as The Food Incubator of the Year.
While Alberta is primarily known as an export-driven oil economy, prior to the 1950’s its wealth creation was primarily driven by agriculture. The Food Processing Development Centre was funded by the Albertan Government to revisit this latent industry, leverage its strengths, and diversity its economy. On top of that, as we’d say in Scotland, “Smart” was added to the equation. (In fact, had this incubator-lab been built in Alba, it would be called the “Smart Food Processing Development Centre” or some such :-))
According to Foodtech Canada:
“Leduc’s Food Processing Development Centre is a modern, fully equipped pilot plant and product development facility. It’s staffed with experienced food scientists, engineers and technologists. Services are designed to strengthen and expand the capability of food processors to meet the challenges of the marketplace through application of new technology and the development of new or improved products and processes.
The Food Processing Development Centre also houses the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator. The incubator is a multi-tenant CFIA approved facility enabling new food processors to scale-up and commercialize new products, which can be nationally and internationally marketed“.
From the Agrivalue Incubator website: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/fpdc10937
“The Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator (APBI) is a multi-tenant facility providing the infrastructure and services to support and enhance the establishment and growth of new companies and new business ventures in Alberta. The APBI is a federally registered establishment enabling resident companies to market their products nationally and internationally.
The underlying purpose of this facility is:
To assist with the start-up of new food businesses, providing facilities and programs to help manage the transition from new product development, through commercialization, market launch and growth in sales, resulting in graduation and the establishment of their own facilities.
To provide a centre of excellence for agrivalue venture scale up, which will assist established food manufacturers in new product/process development, refinement, testing and manufacturing of market entry product volumes.
To attract product/process development initiatives of established food industry companies to Alberta.
A key component of this initiative is the opportunity to provide a range of services to Incubator clients in a shared environment. It is essential that business planning, cost accounting, legal advice, marketing, distribution, quality assurance and other related services are available. The Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator is much more than the building itself.”
The incubator and food development centre seems to have around 40 scientists on staff. It assists with research and new product development. It also has a relationship with universities as well for technology transfer. The University of Alberta is one such partner. Here is a recent presentation on the food processing center and its incubator.
What makes the 75,0000 square foot Agrivalue Incubator so different from others? In addition to its expertise in food and scientific connections, it’s the specialized processing equipment. Building and equipping such a large facility is capital intensive. Most food entrepreneurs don’t have the capital to purchase such equipment themselves, nor would such an investment make sense in the early days of research and development of a new food product. A space for experimentation where capital-intensive equipment is shared makes for a great food incubator.