Shaping the future of Canada’s agri-business: The Global Agri-Business Commons

As American environmental analyst and founder of the Worldwatch Institute, Lester R. Brown so clearly puts in in his book Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, it is expected that by the year 2050, Canada will be one of the only 6 countries exporting food. 1 Similarly, Karin Wittenberg, University of Manitoba’s Dean of Research in the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, perceives the Prairies as being the apex of a rising global demand for food, energy and protein.

Olds, hub for coordination and innovation

In an attempt to address the need for unity, governance and leadership within Canada’s agri-food industry, the rural community of Olds with just under 9000 people are driving a collective entity —The Global Agri-Business Commons (GABC). For this central Albertan town, the future of agri-business involves 3 pillars of action: engaging a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs, increasing food safety and prioritizing research and innovation to address the industry’s accelerated change. Spearheaded by Olds College, a leading post-secondary institution renowned for its agricultural curriculum, the Global Agri-Business Commons is a concept for an entity that currently involves municipality leaders, private sector firms, not-for-profit and government organizations and the dedication of private citizens.

A portal for global leadership

The idea is to create a storefront for businesses and entrepreneurs to conduct and disseminate applied research as well as invest in youth engagement and leverage the work of a community-based infrastructure. Professor David Sparling from Western University’s Ivey Business School in Ontario thinks that a redistribution of government funding that favours research and trade development can reshape Canada’s agri-food industry to embody sustainability and global leadership.3 The Global Agri-Business Commons would not only place Alberta on the map as a major agricultural and food production jurisdiction, but also strengthen technology, business, research and the community as a coordinated entity of collaboration and innovation.

For more info, Dr. H.J. Tom Thompson, President of Olds College can be reached at [email protected]

(1) Brown, Lester R.: Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble
(2) Amiro, B., C. Rawluk and K. Wittenberg (editors). 2014. Moving Towards Prairie Agriculture 2050. Green Paper. Prepared for the Alberta Institute of Agrologists. Annual Conference of Alberta Institute of Agrologists, April. 46 pp.
(3) The Globe and Mail: the Growing Problem: Canada slips from agricultural superpower status, Nov 23, 2010.