British Columbia is renowned for its work in sustainability across sectors.
One of the most important areas to manage efficiency of resources is in food production and related industries. The farming industry may not excite many—but everybody will always need to eat, so this remains a critical area to find sustainable energy practices for.
Several BC startups have long been taking on a wide range of issues connected to an overall mission of innovating food systems for growth, resilience, and sustainability—now, and indefinitely into the future.
Let’s take a look at a few of these BC-born companies using tech to disrupt and improve Canada’s food systems in 2023.
Farment Biosolution is an agtech startup on a mission to provide livestock farmers with cost-effective regenerative farming solutions to manage livestock waste, improve soil health, and reduce the environmental impact of livestock farming.
“Our fermentation technology reduces the need for chemical fertilizers by transforming nutrients into a more available form for plants, increasing soil water retention capacity and allowing farmers to produce more with less,” the VEC competitor says.
In order to match growing population demands, farmers have to produce more on the same amount of land. Fermentation makes nutrients more available and increases the soil water retention capacity, permitting farmers to grow with higher efficiency .
“At Farment, we understand the necessity of matching food availability with population growth,” the company states online. “With bio regenerative solutions, this is achievable without negatively impacting the environment and polluting our world.”
InHubs Farms’ vision is to revolutionize the North American food supply chain with a network of “smart mushroom farms” in every city.
The Vancouver company’s farms use robotics and smart control systems in the cloud to mimic how mushrooms grow in nature to improve taste, nutrition and yield.
“We grow our mushrooms right in the city on trees that we sustainably harvest,” InHubs states online. “We grow mushrooms that are just like the ones that grow in nature.”
By eliminating the need for fulfilment trips and supply chains, InHub Farms says it is both improving the taste of crops—”mushrooms don’t like long trips,” the founders note—and “actively contributing to the health of people, forests, and ecosystems.”
QuantoTech is a BC-founded vertical farming company that designs, builds, and operates automated equipment.
Quanto’s team has designed micro-farm equipment for areas with populations of fewer than 1,000 people in order to help reduce imports and support small and remote communities in their bid to become more food secure.
The company also sells leafy greens and herbs through Northern Greens, an umbrella brand for produce grown at various vertical farms in central and northern BC, and beyond, using QuantoTech grow systems and standards.
Sentire augments robots and advanced machines so they can learn a new task or react to complex environments, including farms.
The Vancouver company delivers artificial intelligence as-a-service in agriculture, horticulture, livestock farming, and forestry. Their unified machine learning workflow has been designed so users can deploy vision AI solutions via cloud or edge computing.
Sentire has also developed pre-trained APIs for users to infuse into existing models across a range of use cases such as optimal harvesting, crop management, yield estimation, and predictive modelling.
“We help enterprises in increasing revenues, lowering costs, and improving customer experiences,” the company says, without a “need for sophisticated tech skills or advanced infrastructure.”
Bioform Technologies turns kelp and wood fibre, both of which are plentiful in BC, into thin yet durable bioplastic films. The UBC startups says these films can then be used for applications like agricultural mulch film, to regulate soil moisture and protect crops, or rigid packaging products.
The maneuver performs double-duty: utilizing used and renewable resources to create a natural plastic-like material, thus reducing new plastic creation, which pollutes.
“Polyethylene can stay in the soil for decades and cause significant environmental contamination,” says cofounder Dr. Jordan MacKenzie, who holds a PhD in fluid mechanics. “As well, food packaging waste is a long-standing problem—tonnes of beverage lids end up in the landfill because they’re almost impossible to recycle.”
The Canadian Food Innovation Network has invested in Bioform via The Food Innovation Challenge.
BC-based CubicFarms, which develops controlled environment agriculture technology, recently announced funding from the Canadian Food Innovation Network. Alongside Winnipeg-born TheoryMesh and EcoDairy, the trio of companies are working on a traceable supply chain for beef and dairy.
By connecting all “players and data points throughout the supply chain,” consumers will be able to pull up sustainability data on grocery store products using a QR code and ensure that the provenance of their food is verifiable at point of sale, according to TheoryMesh.
“Our team at TheoryMesh is excited to partner with CubicFarm Systems and EcoDairy to ensure that every step of the supply chain—from farm to package—is securely recorded and tracked,” stated CEO Chris Bunio, “giving consumers confidence that they are purchasing high-quality, sustainably-raised beef and dairy.”
Blockchain technology will be used to capture verifiable data at all points within the supply chain, while machine learning will be used to optimize the supply chain for sustainability and ensure the quality and safety of consumer products.
“We envision that this innovative approach will set a new standard for the industry and contribute to a more sustainable and responsible food system for all,” Bunio said.
CubicFarms was founded in Langley in 2015.
Food Logistics last year named Richmond’s Icicle Technologies as one of the winners of its 2022 Top Software & Technology Providers award.
Icicle ERP’s food safety, production, and compliance management solution was honoured for its ability to ensure a safe, efficient, and reliable global cold food and beverage supply chain.
“Our advanced ERP software, developed exclusively for food manufacturers, secured business resilience for members of the Icicle Community through a range of supply chain disruptions,” stated Steven Burton, founder of Icicle Technologies, in December.
Founded in 2015, the BC company utilizes technology to “elevate growing food manufacturing companies.”
Icicle’s mission? “Shaping the future of food production,” Burton says.
“Seamless data management and automation are the keys to maximizing margins for food production; supply chain agility depends on real-time insights that allow you to adjust your strategies to meet customer demand,” the CEO said.
In similar fashion, Icicle Technologies claimed the title of ERP Software of the Year at the 2022 AgTech Breakthrough Awards in September—an annual event which honours excellence in agricultural and food technologies and products across the globe.
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