Food In Canada

Innovation Insights: Exploring the Prairies’ food ecosystem

By Hubba Khatoon   

Food Trends Alberta Canadian Food Innovation Network Manitoba Saskatchewan

Canada’s Prairie region has an enviable reputation worldwide for the high quality of its agricultural products, from Albertan beef to wheat from Saskatchewan, and Manitoba’s wide variety of pulses and grains. With these agricultural strengths, it’s not surprising that the region is a centre of technical expertise and a growing foodtech innovation ecosystem, with a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship, data analytics, and digital business solutions.

All three Prairie provinces have a rich food and agri-food heritage. Food and beverage processing sales across the Prairies were $32 billion in 2021, representing approximately 25 per cent of Canada’s total food production that year. In Alberta, “food processors are active in meat products, grain and oilseed milling, snack foods, functional foods, natural health products, beverages, and more,” according to Invest Alberta. The province has a strong agritech ecosystem and a labour force with vast technical expertise. The Institute of Cellular Agriculture, created in conjunction with New Harvest Canada and Cult Food Science, will be located at the University of Alberta’s Agri-Food Discovery Place in Edmonton.


Sustainability is a priority in the Prairies’ food innovation landscape, and Calgary’s Earthware Reusables, Inc., is one of many companies focused on eco-friendly solutions for the food industry. The company offers a return-for-reuse container service and is currently developing durable and UV-resistant hemp reinforced polypropylene composite for vacuum forming of reusable food containers.


“Our incredible growth is set to multiply exponentially this year with a new business model made possible by an agreement with the Alberta Bottle Depot Association,” says John MacInnes, founder of Earthware. “This is the big break that we needed to hit our vision of scaling to 1 million containers in circulation by 2025.”


Saskatchewan is the world’s largest pulse sector, making Regina a natural choice as headquarters of the Protein Industries Canada (PIC) supercluster. Additionally, the provincial government reports there are more than 300 food and beverage processing companies in Saskatchewan producing cereal, meat, dairy and bakery products, plus food ingredients. Saskatchewan’s tech sector is also booming, driven in part by the agtech market. In fact, says Innovation Saskatchewan, the province’s technology sector generated $10 billion in revenue and represented 5.6 per cent of the province’s total GDP.

BetterCart Analytics, based in Saskatoon, offers an AI-driven competitive pricing intelligence solution designed for food and beverage manufacturers and grocery chains. The company offers real-time, hyper-local price analytics and competitive intelligence that helps companies increase profit margins, operational efficiencies, and ROI.

“Seventy per cent of CPG manufacturers operate without analytics,” says Melanie Morrison, founder and CEO of BetterCart Analytics. “As a result, the industry is in need of innovation, especially when it comes to the development of pricing technologies. Our mission is to help those companies that have limited access to pricing data and competitive intelligence so they can digitally transform, execute data-driven pricing decisions, and unleash their competitive advantage.”


Food and beverage processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Manitoba, comprising more than 30 per cent of the province’s total manufacturing sales in 2022. Manitoba also boasts 24 world-class agri-food research and development centres focused on everything from plant-based proteins to digital transformation.

TheoryMesh is helping food businesses achieve sustainability goals with digital solutions. The Winnipeg-based company employs blockchain applications to ensure traceability and transparency in the supply chain and is currently working to create a beef and dairy supply chain that connects from feed to consumer while providing data-driven insights designed to drive efficiency and sustainability.

“Improving the food supply chain is an imperative to feed the world and reduce the impact of agriculture and food waste on the environment,” says TheoryMesh CEO Chris Bunio. “Our company has moved quickly in less than two years to create solutions, which address critical needs in the market. We will continue scaling the company and expand our customer reach to Europe, Africa, and Asia.” 

Hubba Khatoon is regional innovation director for the Prairies for the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN). CFIN funds foodtech projects, stimulates collaboration, and fosters a growing community of F&B professionals. Visit CFIN at

This column was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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