Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge

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Increasing agri-food production to feed the world

With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, finding new ways to meet the world’s food needs has never been more important. As a key producer in Canada’s agri-food industry, Alberta can have a tremendous impact on sustainably growing agri-food production through the development and application of innovative technologies.

The Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge supports projects to develop smart technology or generate knowledge to increase productivity, reduce production costs, or increase the value of Alberta’s agri-food commodities. Funding of up to $500,000 is available to projects that provide solutions to challenges faced by the province’s agri-food sector and that clearly demonstrate social, economic, and environmental benefits.

How the program works

The program’s objective is to advance the development and use of smart technology and to generate knowledge that will increase productivity, reduce cost of production or increase the value of the agri-food industry in a sustainable way, while generating prosperity and employment in Alberta.

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

  • Digital transformation of the agri-food sector:
    • Development of new applications for digitization of the agri-food sector;
    • Prototype development and validation of new technologies.
  • Automation throughout the agri-food value chain:
    • Research into autonomous systems and prototype development.
  • Validation of new smart technologies and solutions.

How funding works

Projects may be eligible for up to $500,000 of funding. The program supports up to 100% of the total cash project costs, but preference will be given to proposals that include matching funding from the applicant or other project partners. Applicants are encouraged to seek co-funding from other agencies, and there is no limit to the amount of stacking towards the applicant’s contribution.

The maximum length for projects funded under this program is three years from project initiation.


The lead applicant can be from within either the agri-food or technology industries. Examples include industrial associations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research and development (R&D) organizations, post-secondary institutions, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and government research labs. Applicants are not required to be based in Alberta, but must demonstrate a clear value proposition for the province.


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. When the applicant is not based in the province, it is especially encouraged to have Alberta-based collaborators.

Program areas

Innovation-Commercialization (Technology Development)

Projects in this area focus on developing or advancing technology solutions that will be used by the applicant, their partners and/or identified end-users to advance commercialization and broad deployment of the solution in Alberta. The outcomes of the projects or the commercialization pathway of the technology solution should have a direct impact resulting in economic, environmental, and social benefits.

Knowledge Generation

Projects in this area focus on the development of knowledge to address a gap or bring new insights to help advance a technical, process or policy innovation. Projects may gather new scientific data and information that enable economic, environmental and social benefits for Albertans by informing policy and regulatory development, furthering understanding of emerging technology trends and opportunities, enhancing citizen engagement in the generation of new knowledge, and exploring market sector challenges and barriers to implementing technology.

How to apply

Application process

Step 1. Expression of Interest

Applications will be submitted electronically using the Alberta Innovates online Grants Management System.

Step 2. Full Proposal

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

Step 3. Project Management

For approved Full Proposals, applicants will execute an investment agreement with Alberta Innovates to proceed with the activities of the project.

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 28, 2020 – Program launch
  • August 20, 2020 – Informational webinar
  • September 14, 2020 – Deadline for Expression of Interest submissions
  • October 19, 2020 – Applicants notified whether they have been shortlisted to submit a Full Project Proposal
  • November 16, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. – Deadline for Full Project Proposal submissions
  • January 2021 – Approved applicants are notified their Full Project Proposal has been accepted
  • February 5, 2021 – Approved applicants must submit all requested documentation to execute agreements
  • December 31, 2023 – All programs must be completed

Program timelines may be subject to change.

Additional information


An informational webinar with more details will be held on August 20, 2020 at 11 a.m. MDT through the ON24 webinar platform.

To access the webinar, please visit the webinar website at 11:00 a.m. MDT on August 20, 2020. The event waiting room will open 15 minutes before the webinar begins. Advanced registration is not required.