June 19, 2020

Calgary startup program launches agriculture stream

Mentorship program will help seed-stage startups scale and commercialize

Calgary-based Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) - Rockies is launching CDL Ag, a new stream designed to help grow seed-stage science and technology-based startups in the agriculture and food space. As COVID-19 shines a spotlight on food security worldwide, the program will offer companies a chance to work with world-class scientists, economists, experienced entrepreneurs and business students, through an objective-based process, with the goal of commercializing and scaling their enterprises.

The new Ag stream will complement CDL-Rockies’ successful Prime and Energy streams and will leverage the region’s strong food and agriculture ecosystem.

A proliferation of new sensors to collect data, new algorithms to process data, and new robotics to act upon data have advanced over the past five years enabling a plethora of new ways to enhance the productivity of growing, distributing, securing, and managing food and other agricultural products. The startups admitted to CDL Ag will exploit these opportunities and thereby enhance food supply and distribution for society.

CDL-Rockies is based at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business and is part of a wider network of eight CDL sites spread across four countries. Each site is tied to a leading business school and each bases its streams on the strength of the local business, science and technology ecosystems.

“Calgary’s location at the centre of Canada’s agricultural heartland makes it an important nexus for Ag,” says Dr. Jim Dewald, PhD, dean of the Haskayne School of Business. “Through CDL-Rockies, we look forward to tapping into the leading research being developed on the Prairies.”

The Ag stream is looking to attract startups from across the Prairie provinces and around the world. In addition to the University of Calgary, the stream will be supported by the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan, further bolstering its academic strength.

“When it comes to agriculture, the Canadian Prairies are home to world-class academic and business expertise as well as some of the largest agriculture companies in the world,” says Alice Reimer, site lead at CDL-Rockies. “I can’t think of a better place for startups in this industry to get the support they need to grow.” 

We are excited to announce that Nutrien, the world’s largest producer of crop inputs and a global leader in ag retail, has joined CDL-Rockies in its Ag Stream as a CDL catalyst partner.

“Nutrien is an organization highly focused on ensuring food security for the world, while playing a leading role in sustainable agriculture. Our goal is to produce more food with fewer natural resources and lower carbon emissions,” says Chuck Magro, Nutrien president and CEO. “Our partnership with CDL-Rockies will help place us at the cutting edge of new technologies that will bring us closer to our goal.”

Agricultural technology pioneer Alison Sunstrum will also be joining the CDL-Rockies’ Ag stream as a Fellow and a founding partner. Sunstrum brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and strong mentorship capabilities to the stream. She is based in Alberta and has built ag-tech companies from the ground up. Sunstrum also holds patents for innovative technology and is a former member of Canada’s National Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table, among other accomplishments.

Alison Sunstrum has joined the CDL-Rockies’ Ag Stream as a Founding Partner and Fellow.

Alison Sunstrum has joined the CDL-Rockies’ Ag Stream as a Founding Partner and Fellow.

“How we ensure food security and feed a growing global population into the future is a big question, and I believe technology is the answer,” says Sunstrum. “I’m delighted to be able to help the next generation of entrepreneurs expand their ideas and bring them to market.” 

The CDL-Rockies Ag stream accepts ventures from all over the world. The ideal candidates are those based in North America and that have technology- or science-based applications in biotechnology, farm tech, automation or food tech. Startups interested in applying to the CDL Ag stream can visit the website for more information.