Agriculture & Value Added Agriculture

Agriculture & Value Added Agriculture

Agriculture Sector

Southwest Alberta offers immediate opportunities to invest in existing businesses, start a new venture or explore partnerships with established firms in the thriving agriculture sector.

This unique region is an ideal location to live, learn and invest due to its:

  • Low business costs - one of the most competitive tax environments in North America - The combined federal/provincial corporate income tax rate is 27% for general businesses and 14% for small businesses;
  • Collaborative community - $1.15 billion in new capital investment and alternative energy industry development is supported by a network of 38 municipalities;
  • Strategic location and access - $845 million in major provincial projects have been announced for the Southern Alberta; and
  • Entrepreneurial spirit - a skilled, young and productive workforce populates this stunning area

Alberta Southwest has three Regional Industry Sectors

Download a detailed, printable, PDF version of the Invest In Southwest Alberta Agriculture profile.

The Region

The agriculture industry is the number one renewable and sustainable resource in South West Alberta, it is also the largest employer, employing over 19% of the population. The SW region is one of Alberta’s larger agricultural regions. There are 1,795 farms in the region accounting for 6.1% of the provinces farm acreage and 5.3% of total farm receipts. The region will continue to generate sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits well into the future. The economic success of agriculture is supported by agriculture policy, irrigation development and fertile grasslands. In 2010, the SW region had $604 million in total farm cash receipts, which was an increase of over $80 million from 2005. 
The region has agribusiness in:

  • Agriculture - Production
  • Agri-food - Processing
  • Bio-Energy

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Southwest Alberta’s six major centres are: Cardston; Claresholm; Crowsnest Pass; Fort Macleod; Nanton; and Pincher Creek. They range in size from 2,000 to 5,500 inhabitants, and the regional population is 36,749.

Access to Markets


  • Highway 2: CANAMEX trade corridor extending from Alberta to Mexico.
  • Highway 3: connects Medicine Hat, through southern Alberta, to Vancouver which has Canada’s largest and most diversified port.
  • Highway 1: the TransCanada is the major east to west highway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
  • Major port of entry to the USA: 1 hour south of Fort Macleod is the Sweetgrass/Coutts border crossing, the 9th busiest across Canada and open 24/7. 


  • Encompasses one of Alberta’s longest community runways, managed by the Municipality of Pincher Creek, which rests at 1190 metres (3,903 feet) in elevation and is 2012 metres (6,600 feet) long .
  • Within 1 hour to the Lethbridge airport, a key entry point for people, goods and services in Southern Alberta.
  • A 2-hour drive to the Calgary International Airport, Canada’s third largest airport. Calgary connects passengers, with over 100 global flights per day, to international destinations and serves as a major cargo hub for Western Canada.


  • The Canadian Pacific Railway mainline ships products from the freight handling facility in Lethbridge in all four directions. Whether it is north to Calgary, south to the USA, east to Ontario or west to Vancouver, southwest Alberta is part of an international transportation network.

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Alberta is strategically located in the growing western Canadian market, offering overnight or less than 24-hour delivery to a market of over 50 million consumers including the US Pacific Northwest. The southwest region is connected to a network of corridors running from north to south and east to west. The area is also within an hour’s drive of Lethbridge, an important regional hub for businesses. 

A Diverse Economy

With a vibrant and diverse economy, the southwest region of Alberta provides a number of investment advantages and opportunities. Over 1,900 businesses operate in this area of economic strength across the agriculture, natural gas, tourism, manufacturing and growing renewable energy sectors.
Businesses in the region benefit from a young, highly skilled and educated workforce. In 2012, 48.3% of the labour force aged 25 and over reported holding a university degree or post-secondary diploma and two-thirds of the region’s population is aged between 15 and 64.
Annually, Southwest Alberta records approximately $40 million in municipal construction value and has $1.6 billion in recently completed or planned municipal/private sector construction projects.

Agriculture, Agri Food and Bio Products

Southern Alberta is one of the largest, most fertile and productive agricultural regions in Canada. It has rich soil, 2,300 hours of sunshine and 140 growing days per year, all supported by the largest irrigation system in Canada. It is recognized as a leader in Canola production as well as confined feeding operations. 

Growth in agriculture has accelerated as efficiencies in farming operations and crop and livestock techniques have improved.  There are ample opportunities in this ideal setting for traditional and innovative agricultural development.  In addition to crops, it accounts for a large portion of the cattle and calves, hogs, hens and chickens raised in the Province of Alberta.  

In much of southern Alberta, there is not enough rainfall and moisture to naturally sustain agricultural crops. The agriculture in this region is supported by an irrigation area that involves 13 irrigation districts. Irrigation in Alberta accounts for nearly 4.1 billion cubic metres of surface water. 

This region is home to 4,470 farms encompassing a land area of 4.2 million acres. Farm revenues are $3.11 billion per year in this region, the highest of all areas in Alberta. The on-farm livestock and poultry in this area are valued at $885 million, with 1,060,830 cattle and calves reported. Cropland totals 3.7 million acres in the region and this area is the largest producers of durum wheat, fodder corn, potatoes, flaxseed, dry beans, sugar beets and vegetables (such as sweet corn and green peas) in Alberta.  

Crops produced in the region include:

  • Spring & Durum Wheat
  • Canola
  • Barley
  • Forage crops (such as alfalfa)
  • Sugar Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Pulse Crops (such as beans, peas and lentils)
  • Honey 


Livestock is also a key agricultural product in our region, with the mainstays of beef, pork, and poultry in addition to eggs, cheese and milk, that contribute significantly to Canada’s and the worlds protein supply. Alberta has some of the largest confined feedlot operations in Canada and our region on the province produces approximately 60% of all Canadian beef. These confined feeding operations focus on the nutrition, health management, and maintenance of the facilities and environment in order to finish livestock such as beef cattle, hogs, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens and ducks to the highest food health standards prior to processing.
As new global markets for agriculture and agri-business products grow, so do the opportunities for investment.  Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge have focused on advancing the agriculture industry, and have established a number of programs and resources for data-driven productivity in agriculture.  This region is also actively pursuing opportunities with non-traditional, high value crops that are ideally suited to the region.


The agriculture industry in Southern Alberta is recognized for its entrepreneurial and progressive farmers who experiment with new specialty crops, new equipment and advances in precision agriculture, and land management practices. The business of agriculture is broadening in Alberta, shifting from food producers to agri-business.


Southern Alberta’s processed agricultural products are literally consumed around the world. This region is home to more than 120 established processing businesses, producing food and/or feed for Canada and the world. 

Southern Alberta has a long history of being an agricultural production, distribution and service centre. In fact, The Lethbridge Research Centre (established in 1906) is the largest within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's national network of 19 centres and leads Canada's research in the development of bio industrial platforms. Success in this industry is due to the proximity to the crops produced in the region, with food and feed processing surrounded by agricultural production. 

Companies in Southern Alberta are growing and prospering, employment in the Agriculture and Agri-Food cluster has increased by 25.5% in the last 10 years.  All large portion of locally grown crops are processed in the region, and global producers such as Richardson Oilseed, McCains, Cavendish, PepsiCo Foods, Lucerne Foods, Sunrise Poultry, Sunnyrose Cheese, Maple Leaf Meats, and Parmalat are distributing their high quality Canadian food products around the world. 

Interesting Facts

  • Sunrise Poultry Ltd processes 14.5 million fowl per year; 290,000 per week.
  • Richardson Oilseed Ltd. (formerly Canbra Foods), was the first company in the world to market canola oil.
  • Sunnyrose Cheese (Agropur) processes 300,000 litres of milk per day, producing millions of pounds of cheese per year. 


  • A combined annual revenue of $1.3 billion
  • Employment of 1,679 people
  • Operating facilities that cover more than 30 acres
  • Wage costs of $72.8 million annually
  • The majority (64%) invested in equipment and/or the adoption of new technologies within the past year

Business Resources

Alberta has a comprehensive suite of programs available for agri-business. These programs are there to support business through the innovation, product development and business development phases.  Discover what is available to help grow your agri-processing business.

Business Development Support

Agriculture and Forestry – Government of Alberta
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry has a number of resources to support innovation, investment and sustainable growth of the Agriculture and Forestry industry in Alberta. Here is a link to applicable programs and resources for Agri-food businesses.

Agri-Business and Product Development
The purpose of this program is to help processors, producers and producer groups invest in new and innovative ways of getting Alberta-made products into new markets, enabling Alberta’s agri-industry to cultivate new customers and increase profitability.

Agri-Processing Automation and Efficiency Program
This program is to help meat processors and livestock producers invest in new processing equipment and adopt improved processes and best practices, allowing the meat industry to increase its capacity, competitiveness and profitability. Applicants are eligible for reimbursement of certain capital and non-capital expenses.

  • Reimbursement of capital expenses (20%). Eligible capital costs include the engineering design, acquisition and installation (including modifications, if needed) of automated machinery and equipment.
  • Reimbursement of non-capital expenses (50%). Eligible non-capital costs include third-party costs for consulting and engineering fees, consultant and coaching fees related to process improvement and related travel.

The purpose of the program is to help meat processors and livestock producers invest in new processing equipment and adopt improved processes and best practices, allowing the meat industry to increase its capacity, competitiveness and profitability. 

Business Opportunity Grant
This program is to help Alberta’s new or established producers, agri-processing companies and producer groups.
Research and Development

Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA)
The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) is focused on investing in innovation delivering productivity gains and supply chain collaboration for improved knowledge transfer and profitability in the livestock and meat industry.

The Research and Development Grant Program
The Research and Development Program is focused on initiatives that drive efficiency and productivity within Alberta’s livestock and meat industry.  This will strengthen Alberta’s competitiveness by reducing livestock production costs, processing costs and labour requirements.

Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF)
AITF provides innovation, research and commercialization services that address challenges and priorities in the Alberta’s agriculture, forestry, oil &gas, environment, health and pipeline sectors.

R&D Associates program
Industry r&D Associates addresses the increasing research and development (R&D) personnel needs of Alberta industry. Through this program component, Alberta companies are able to recruit recent Master’s and PhD graduates to conduct research that benefits the organization.

Industry r&D Associates consists of an annual stipend of $55,000 from Tech Futures and an annual research allowance of $7,000. The funding term is up to a maximum of two years with Year 2 funding being contingent on satisfactory performance during the first year and upon proof of continued need.

Voucher Program
The Voucher is designed to support technologies in the mid-to-late developmental stages but may include some early developmental stages too.

Micro-Voucher Program
The Micro-Voucher is to support technologies in the early developmental stages.

The Product Demonstration Program
The PDP is designed to support technologies in the more advanced stages of development.

Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
IRAP provides technical and business advisroy services realted to R&D, including startegic intellegence, and customized solutions to fit business needs.

Western Innovation Initiative (WINN) - This $100 million five-year federal initiative offers repayable contributions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with operations in Western Canada to move their new and innovative technologies from the later stages of research and development to the marketplace.

Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
The SR&ED tax incentive is a federal program that encourages businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to conduct research and development. Any Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) can deduct SR&ED expenditures for income tax purposes and companies can earn ITC’s to reduce income tax payable.

A refundable ITC of 35%, 100% refundable on qualified SR&ED current expenditures and 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED capital expenditures, up to a maximum threshold of $3 million of qualified SR&ED expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada. A CCPC can also earn a 20% non-refundable ITC on any amount over that threshold. However, for a CCPC that meets the definition of qualifying corporation, the 20% ITC on any amount over that threshold is refundable, 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED current and capital expenditures.

Investment and Export Resources

This link will get you started on resources available for exporting products and investing in the SW agri-food sector. Agri-food Opportunities

Export Development Canada has a number of webinars that explain the ins and outs of exporting products from Canada to around the world.  Export Seminars

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)
DFATD manages Canada's diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country's international trade and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance. They also provide funding programs to help take your business to the next level by focusing on global trade

2018-Invest-in-Southwest-Alberta-Agriculture.pdf [986 KB]
Last Changed: May 22, 2018 03:34pm