In mid November I had the opportunity to attend the first BC Agrifood and Seafood Conference: Growing the Future Together, which was held in Kelowna.
In addition to an agritech innovation challenge sponsored by the BC Innovation Council, the conference had excellent workshops in four streams; access to markets, domestic growth, innovation and food supply security. As BC Minister of Agriculture, Norm Letnick, stated at the event, ‘the conference is a great opportunity for us to have a conversation about how we can develop, strengthen and build relationships in this sector’.
This is a particularly interesting topic here in Summerland. As part of the sector development work the Summerland Chamber of Commerce is involved in with the District of Summerland and the South Okanagan regional economic development group, we have been exploring the agricultural technology sector for a few years.
What started as casual conversations began to coalesce into more meaningful discussions with government and industry leaders around the possibilities to grow businesses in these areas in Summerland.
For example, precision science and technology services pertaining to agriculture, supply chain businesses in the wine industry, neutraceutical and biotechnology companies, businesses that work in telematics, RFID technology, soil sensors, RTK navigation systems, etc., are all potential businesses that could be a fit for our community.
There are a number of reasons why Summerland is a great choice for growth in this sector.
We are a community founded in the agricultural sector and, in particular, we are home to the cutting-edge Summerland Research and Development Centre. Over the years, world-renowned food based biotechnology companies have begun as research projects at the Centre and then commercialized, grown and remained in Summerland and we know that cluster opportunities exist.
Summerland is also ideally situated in the heart of the Okanagan with close proximity to major centres such as Kelowna and Penticton, fast access to two airports and easy connections to major highways that take our products east to the rest of Canada, west to the Lower Mainland and south to the US.
Agricultural technology businesses located in Summerland would provide increased economic and employment opportunities in our community and region and build on Summerland’s deep roots in agriculture. Sector development is not a fast process but real strides can be made in a few years. We look forward to growth in this area.
Christine Petkau is Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland. The Chamber is also responsible for business retention, expansion and attraction (economic development services) on behalf of the District of Summerland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.