Smart Agriculture and Food Digitalization and Automation Challenge

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Increasing agri-food production to feed the world

Agriculture plays a pivotal role around the globe, delivering nourishment, contributing to economic growth and trade, and providing livelihoods for billions of people. But food systems are strained by the need to feed a growing global population while also adapting to shifting consumer demands, changing regulations and environmental concerns.

As a key contributor to Canada’s agri-food industry, Alberta can have a tremendous impact by sustainably increasing agri-food production through the development and application of innovative technologies.

The Smart Agriculture and Food Digitalization and Automation Challenge (SAFDAC) supports projects to develop or advance smart technologies to increase productivity, reduce production costs or increase the value of Alberta’s agri-food commodities. Funding is available to projects that provide solutions to challenges faced by the province’s agri-food sector and which clearly demonstrate social, economic and environmental benefits.

Smart technologies in this program include but are not limited to innovation opportunities for:

  • Digital transformation of the agri-food sector.
  • Autonomous systems throughout the agri-food value chain.
  • Development and validation of new smart technologies and solutions.

How the program works

Smart technologies for this program include but are not limited to:

  • Development of new applications for digitalization of the agri-food sector. Examples include using artificial intelligence to develop data-driven decision models, and remote monitoring systems for farms and food manufacturing.
  • Autonomous systems and prototype development that reduce costs and/or improve quality and safety of agriculture and food products.
  • Development and validation of new smart technologies and solutions to mitigate the impact of biotic and abiotic stress, and increase farm productivity and supply chain functionality.

Technologies out of the scope of this program include:

  • Conventional agriculture research, including biotechnology, agronomy, demonstration and adaptation research.
  • Marketing or new agri-food product development.
  • Projects focusing solely on the reduction of greenhouse emissions, mitigation, abatement or sequestration.

Eligible applicants

This program is open to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in either the agri-food or technology industries, industry associations, research and development organizations, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and government research laboratories, provided they are legally able to execute the Alberta Innovates’ Investment Agreement. Applicants are not required to be based in Alberta but must demonstrate a clear value proposition for Alberta.

Funding 

Alberta Innovates is making up to $2,000,000 CAD available for this program, to support the development of innovative technology solutions to challenges that face the agri-food industry. The program supports up to 75 per cent of the total eligible costs, to a maximum of $500,000 in funding for an individual project. Consideration will be given to applications with less than 25 per cent matching funds but this will affect the competitive standing of the proposal.

The maximum length for projects funded under this program is two years from project initiation. Projects must be completed no later than December 2023.

Collaborators

Applicants are encouraged to include additional funding collaborators, but having collaborators is not mandatory.

Collaboration between multiple organizations is encouraged to enhance and leverage the value proposition by demonstrating opportunities for technology validation and sharing of results. Applicants are encouraged to engage and include Alberta’s post-secondary and research institutions in the project consortium where appropriate. It is desirable for projects to attract and train highly qualified personnel who can increase Alberta’s innovation capacity. Applicants not based in the province are especially encouraged to have Alberta-based collaborators.

Application process

The application is a two-step process requiring an initial submission of an Expression of Interest through the Alberta Innovates online Grants Management System.

Applicants whose Expressions of Interest are approved during the first review are invited to submit a Full Proposal. The review process is highly competitive and only the highest-quality projects will be considered for funding.

Applicants with approved Full Proposals will execute an Investment Agreement with Alberta Innovates to proceed with the activities of the project. Links to sample templates for the Investment Agreements can be found below under Resources, for your reference.

Project payments are based on milestone achievement and progress reporting.

Alberta Innovates continues to require reports for five years following the completion of the project to measure long-term benefits.

Program timeline

  • July 7, 2021 – Program launch
  • July 15, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. MDT – Information webinar
  • August 13, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. MDT – Deadline for Expressions of Interest submissions
  • September 13, 2021 – Selected Expressions of Interest invited to submit Full Proposals
  • October 22, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. MDT – Deadline for Full Proposal submissions
  • November 2021 – Notification letters sent to Full Proposal applicants 
  • December 2021 – Approved applicants must submit all requested documentation to execute agreements
  • December 31, 2023 – All projects must be completed

Program timelines may be subject to change.

Are you interested in applying?

  • Familiarize yourself with the updated SAFDAC Program Guide and other resources below.
  • Ensure you are an eligible applicant. Eligibility is defined in the Program Guide.
  • Submit your Expression of Interest online using the Alberta Innovates grant management system by 4:30 p.m. MDT, August 13, 2021. Applicants are strongly encouraged to complete their application in advance of this deadline. Alberta Innovates will not accept partial or incomplete submissions. Late submissions will not be accepted.
  • Applicants will be notified whether their Expression of Interest is approved and asked to submit a Full Proposal for funding consideration.

Additional information

Webinar

View the application webinar below and download the presentation slides here.

Funded Projects

Other projects being funded under SAFDAC can be viewed here.

Resources