INCREASING FOOD SUPPLY SECURITY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Big things were happening for BC’s agricultural sector this month, right here in Kelowna.

On November 14 and 15 at the BC Agrifood and Seafood Conference: Growing the Future Together, we not only welcomed over 35 experts from around North America for a conversation about increasing food security – we also set the wheels in motion on some exciting agriculture technology projects, connected local food producers with retailers and distributors, and heard from famed BC chef Vikram Vij.

The conference grew out of our BC Liberal government’s commitment to increase food supply security in our province. We’ve been working with farmers, ranchers and the seafood and food manufacturing sector toward this goal, developing policies and programs to encourage agrifood production. Thanks to the hard work and passion of BC’s food producers and our commitment to this goal, we’re seeing great results already. BC’s agrifood revenue last year was a record $13 billion.

However, we know there’s more to be done. Our goal is to reach $15 million in annual revenues for BC’s farmers and agrifood companies by 2020 by increasing production, driving competitiveness and building markets – which will in turn increase food security.

But we can’t do it alone. At the BC Agrifood and Seafood Conference, we gathered some of the best agricultural minds, leading technological and business experts and – of course – BC’s food producers to help us build a foundation for our next steps forward.

We had some great break-out sessions with our panelists, a diverse group of experts who shared their insights about the roles they and others can play in strengthening food supply security.

But before we sat down for the panels, we had an exciting opening to the conference – the launch of the Agritech Innovation Challenge.

Agriculture technology, or agritech, has the potential to maximize the productivity of our agricultural sector while minimizing inputs, and so to create the best value for our farmland and coast.

Participants in the Challenge were tasked with developing a product or process that promotes overall food supply security for BC. At the conference, they discussed their ideas with technology, entrepreneurship and agriculture experts. After two weeks to refine their proposals, they submitted their entries at the end of November – Challenge finalists will move toward receiving funding to help make their ideas a reality.

Our government, in partnership with the federal government, is proud to support the development of the successful Challenge proposals through the Growing Forward 2 program.

The conference also allowed BC companies that are already using new production practices and technology to display their innovations at our exhibitor showcase. The many food producers in attendance not only had the opportunity to see this agritech in action, but to meet with retailers and distributors looking to strengthen their local suppliers’ networks.

From facilitating these local connections to sowing the seeds of new advancements in agritech, this conference was an overwhelming success. I look forward to seeing this success continue, as we work together to strengthen BC’s agrifood and seafood sector.