How Canada’s Agribusiness Industry is Sowing the Seeds for Event Excellence

The country’s agricultural innovators push the industry forward in fantastic events destinations from coast to coast.

(Photo credit: Destination Ontario)

(Photo credit: Destination Ontario)

With its breathtaking natural landscapes, robust agricultural industry and stellar conference infrastructure, Canada has become a top choice for organisers looking to host impactful agribusiness events.

The country’s agribusiness sector generates nearly CAD $135 billion per year, with CAD $82 billion in annual agricultural and agrifood exports in 2021. With 21 agriculture and agri-food research centres across the country, Canada is consistently breaking new ground in R&D, shaping the future of global food production.

This makes Canada fertile ground for agricultural events of all sizes — offering exceptional knowledge capital that planners can access to enrich their agendas, through enlightening keynotes, site tours and B2B connections. The country is a world leader in growth, food security and sustainability, home to pioneering research on the most innovative technologies, food products and growing practices. Supported by strong partnerships between government, academia, industry and institutions, Canada has the capacity to help feed the world, making it the ideal destination to host agribusiness-focused meetings. 

From world-class viticulture regions to superclusters of protein processing and pulse crops, delegates can experience innovations in soil science, agri-tech, water conservation and precision agriculture. Here are four trailblazing cities paving the way in the agribusiness arena.

Calgary: Rooted in agriculture and a hotspot for global food and technology suppliers

By 2024, Calgary’s agribusiness sector is aiming to invest $246 million in digital transformation (Photo credit: Andrew Bain)

By 2024, Calgary’s agribusiness sector is aiming to invest $246 million in digital transformation (Photo credit: Andrew Bain)

Blending warm western hospitality and big-city energy in the heart of southern Alberta, Calgary has a dynamic agribusiness ecosytem with sub-sector expertise that includes protein development and processing, animal genetics, food safety and crop sciences.

Alberta exports agricultural and food products to more than 150 countries and is the third-largest exporter of agri-food products in Canada. More than 900 agribusinesses are in the Calgary Region, employing close to 80,000 people. A growing agtech hub, Calgary’s industry plans to invest $246 million in digital transformation by 2024 to boost precision agriculture, develop and grow new crops and improve processes.

Surrounded by fertile farmland and located near prominent agricultural research institutions, Calgary’s bustling agribusiness sector includes top-notch leaders in agricultural innovation such as Decisive Farming by Telus Agriculture, Verge Technologies and Botaneco — known for its technology and research applications in the food, personal care and animal feed markets.

There’s also lots of leading-edge applied research and innovation in the area, with 22 agriculture-based innovation and research facilities, including the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence, tech accelerator Zone Startups Calgary and the University of Calgary’s Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education. The Werklund School of Agriculture Technology’s Smart Ag Innovation Centre and new agri-tech learning hub opens this fall, ready to train the next generation of agricultural leaders alongside the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Olds College.

With proximity to high-value land, a focus on innovation and agribusiness giants such as BASF recently moving their headquarters to Calgary, significant opportunities exist for those meeting here.

David Woodward, Executive Director of Meetings and Conventions at Tourism Calgary

Ideal for field visits within conference programmes, Calgary offers proximity to living lab tours and production agriculture: delegates meeting in the city can be on a farm in just 20 minutes and have access to industry-driven networking events.

The world-famous Calgary Stampede — showcasing unique opportunities for livestock producers — draws thousands every July, while the city’s diverse culture ensures international visitors feel welcome.

Meetings & Conventions Calgary is eager to connect event planners with key agribusiness contacts to enhance their meeting or convention,” says David Woodward, executive director of meetings and conventions at Tourism Calgary.

Calgary’s recently renovated airport makes for easy global access, and with its $500 million investment into its meetings and event infrastructure, its BMO Centre will have more than one million square feet of gathering space by 2024. 

Calgary will welcome the U.S. Grains Council for its 2023 Annual Board of Delegates Meeting and the American Society of Animal Science’s 2024 Annual Meeting.

Winnipeg: A global powerhouse in functional food research and precision agriculture

Among the agribusiness events Winnipeg has hosted in recent years are the Potato Association of America's 103rd Annual Meeting in 2018 and the Egg Farmers of Canada’s Annual Summer Meeting in 2022 (Photo credit: Mike Peters)

Among the agribusiness events Winnipeg has hosted in recent years are the Potato Association of America's 103rd Annual Meeting in 2018 and the Egg Farmers of Canada’s Annual Summer Meeting in 2022 (Photo credit: Mike Peters)

Located in the centre of North America, the resource-rich city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is an ideal event destination, brimming with culture and world-class attractions. Just 62 miles from the U.S. border, it’s easy and convenient for delegates to fly in from both coasts to Winnipeg’s award-winning airport terminal.

Since 2016, more than CAD $1.5 billion has been invested in Manitoba’s agri-food sector, which supplies more than one-fifth of Canada’s hogs, soybeans, oats and potatoes and is home to 24 renowned agri-food R&D development centres. 

A world leader in protein processing, food manufacturing, precision agriculture, agri-inputs and ag-biotechnologies, pulses and grain crop production, the Winnipeg metropolitan area boasts international agribusiness companies and industry associations such as the Canadian Grain Commission. 

The Protein Industries Canada supercluster was formed to enhance innovation and create opportunities for businesses to collaborate, invest in and develop projects with the potential to transform the country’s agriculture and food processing industries. Companies making up this supercluster include Roquette, the world’s largest pea processing facility; Merit Functional Foods, the world’s only commercial-scale food-grade canola protein production facility; and Manitoba Harvest, the world’s largest hemp food products manufacturer. Other innovators in this sector include Farmers Edge — which recently announced the industry’s first insurtech platform that boosts efficiency for growers and insurance providers — Cargill, the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine, the Canola Council of Canada, Pulse Canada and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

The Winnipeg metropolitan area is a world leader in protein processing, food manufacturing and precision agriculture (Photo credit: Enviro Foto)

The Winnipeg metropolitan area is a world leader in protein processing, food manufacturing and precision agriculture (Photo credit: Enviro Foto)

“Having over 1,800 agribusiness establishments at your fingertips and seven post-secondary educational institutions supporting this sector generates opportunities for strong programming and knowledge-sharing opportunities for delegates,” says Dayna Spiring, President and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.

Recent agribusiness events in Winnipeg include the Potato Association of America’s 103rd Annual Meeting in 2018, the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers’ 2019 conference and the Egg Farmers of Canada’s Annual Summer Meeting in 2022.

A hub of agribusiness academia, Winnipeg’s 20-plus post-secondary programmes devoted to agriculture, food and animal sciences, agroecology and agribusiness development make it easy for planners to tap local expertise for speaker programmes. Some of the city’s education and research institutions include the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine, the Food Development Centre, the Prairie Research Kitchen and Paterson Global Foods Institute, and the Richardson Innovation Centre.

Winnipeg’s dynamic cultural scene — including the world’s first museum dedicated to human rights, and the state-of-the-art RBC Convention Centre — also add to its appeal as a destination for events across a range of sectors.

Toronto: Innovators in food and beverage processing and manufacturing

Meeting planners can tap into Torontos rich knowledge resources from its major post-secondary and research institutions (Photo credit: Destination Toronto)

Meeting planners can tap into Torontos rich knowledge resources from its major post-secondary and research institutions (Photo credit: Destination Toronto)

Known worldwide for its exceptional cuisine and agribusiness expertise, the Toronto Region is the largest urban food and beverage cluster in North America, employing 60,000 workers. Because it’s surrounded by fertile agricultural land, Ontarios $41 billion dairy, fruit, vegetable and beverage manufacturing industry makes it a leading farm-to-table supply chain in Canada.

Toronto’s agribusiness innovation ecosystem includes We the Roots — which partnered with the University of Guelph, top chefs and caterers to grow herbs and greens at its vertical farm in Toronto using Canadian Space Agency technology — and Flashfood, which created an app that helps grocery chains reduce waste and carbon footprints by selling ripe perishable items. Industry giants Dr Oetker, Kraft Heinz Canada and Unilever Canada are just a few leaders in the sector that have their home in Toronto. 

Conference organisers can easily access the industry’s exceptional knowledge capital at major post-secondary and research institutions such as District Ventures Capital, Nutrition Discovery Labs and Yspace Food Accelerator, as well as the University of Toronto, Toronto Metropolitan University, Centennial College and York University.

Because of the climate that we have in Southwestern Ontario, the capacity to produce food is incomparable. The Toronto Region — and Guelph especially — is a major hub of agricultural food research, not only in Canada but in North America.

Dr. Richard Heck, Professor of Soils and Landscape Processes at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences and President of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists

Toronto’s proximity to agricultural sites allows delegates to encounter a broad variety of enterprise, including horticultural, grain and animal production, says Dr. Richard Heck, Professor of Soils and Landscape Processes at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences and President of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists.

“Within an hour’s drive or two,” says Heck, “You’re able to access cutting-edge producers interested in linking up with agricultural research and technological innovations, and work with them to see how this can be implemented in modern mainstream agriculture.”

In addition to seamless access into Toronto’s two international airports and its world-class conference infrastructure, delegates can enjoy dynamic cultural experiences. North America’s fourth-largest city is also a leader in sustainability: for example, Metro Toronto Convention Centre was the first conference venue to team up with the Voyage Control app to reduce C02 emissions during event move-in and move-out.

Recent and upcoming agribusiness events in the Toronto area include Subway’s 2019 Global Convention and the International Association of Food Protection’s 2023 Annual Meeting. 

Niagara Region: Leading advancement in cool climate oenology and precision farming

Niagara's agribusiness sector employs 20,000 workers and generates $1.4 billion in agriculture GDP — not to mention more than 200 greenhouses and close to 100 wineries spread out over 215,000 acres of lush farmland (Photo credit: Destination Ontario)

Niagara's agribusiness sector employs 20,000 workers and generates $1.4 billion in agriculture GDP — not to mention more than 200 greenhouses and close to 100 wineries spread out over 215,000 acres of lush farmland (Photo credit: Destination Ontario)

One of Canada’s most acclaimed culinary and wine regions, 
Niagara's unique microclimate and wealth of pioneering growers and producers make it one of the largest viticultural areas in the country. Located at the tip of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe, the Niagara Region’s other sub-sectors of specialisation include floriculture, agriculture logistics and transport, as well as poultry and egg production.

With more than 200 greenhouses, 60 food-processing companies and close to 100 wineries spread out over 215,000 acres of lush farmland, Niagara’s agribusiness sector employs 20,000 workers and generates $1.4 billion in agriculture GDP. Some of its leading companies and research institutions in the area include Andrew Peller Limited, Priva and Hendriks Greenhouses, and Niagara College Greenhouse Technology Network.

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre focuses on horticulture science and creating innovative products and solutions across Canada. Its President and CEO, Dr. Ian Potter, is proud of the institution’s legacy.

The Niagara Region features site tours, dinners and cultural experiences, and its Niagara Falls Convention Centre is 250 steps from the famed Niagara Falls (Photo credit: Niagara Falls Tourism)

The Niagara Region features site tours, dinners and cultural experiences, and its Niagara Falls Convention Centre is 250 steps from the famed Niagara Falls (Photo credit: Niagara Falls Tourism)

“The Niagara Region is a real hub of innovation around tender fruit. Vineland was set up more than 100 years ago to help the tender-fruit industry develop and address the challenges that were there at the time,” says Potter. “Pests, viruses and diseases change, and crops adapt. Today, we help the sector with different seed varieties and with economic development. We help drive innovation and support the sectors as they face challenges and opportunities. A lot of the business ecosystem is built around supporting the agri-system in Niagara, and the whole supply chain – from seed to consumer. We start with the consumer, then we breed accordingly.”

Planners can find top-shelf speakers at Brock University, Niagara College Canada and the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture

 The Niagara Region is a real hub of innovation around tender fruit.

Dr. Ian Potter, President and CEO of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

Niagara is also home to Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, where researchers created the VineAlert Program, which allows growers to access temperature information in real time to protect vines from harsh temperatures and frost. And the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network works with Canadian growers to develop virus-free vines, boost production and study water and nutrient management strategies. 

Positioned right on the U.S. border, the Niagara Region is easily accessible for international delegates via three international airports close by, and its Niagara Falls Convention Centre is 250 steps from the famed Niagara Falls. The area also features many unique venues for site tours, dinners and cultural experiences. It proved the perfect choice for the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium 2022.

Elevate your next event in Canada

Pioneering agricultural production, processing and manufacturing makes Canada a strong competitor on the world stage, as well as an innovation leader. The country’s vibrant cities and expertise make Canada the ideal destination for business events.

Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Niagara represent just four of Canada’s 10 agribusiness centres of excellence, each with their own areas of specialisations and appeal for groups. Get in touch with Destination Canada's sector-specific expert for more information on how the expertise of Canadian destinations aligns with your organisation’s area of interest.

For impartial insights, inspiration and introductions, planners can contact:

Virginie De Visscher
Senior Director of Business Development, Economic Sectors
Destination Canada Business Events Devisscher.virginie@destinationcanada.com

Centres of excellence

Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada’s leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, life sciences and more.