Atlantic Growth Strategy – Food


March 1, 2019


Atlantic Canada exports its high quality and sustainable goods across Canada and exports to markets around the globe. As regional businesses are investing in advanced equipment to address labour challenges, they are reaping the benefits of increased productivity. Furthermore, Atlantic Growth Strategy initiatives supporting research and innovation in areas such as bioscience, ocean technology, fisheries and agriculture are fostering a culture of innovation in the food industry. These factors, combined with the rise of food tourism and improved market access, thanks to a number of international free trade agreements, are opening doors for Atlantic Canadian businesses to broaden their horizons and grow their food exports exponentially.

Federal and provincial governments offer financing and programming support for the industry that encourages automation, improved productivity, scaling up and certification to access global markets. Efforts are being made to leverage opportunities to help grow the food sector through the Atlantic Growth Strategy.

The food and beverage processing industry is the second largest manufacturing industry in Canada in terms of value of production with shipments worth $105.5 billion in 2014; it accounts for 17% of total manufacturing shipments and for 2% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is the largest manufacturing employer and provides employment for 246,000 Canadians.[1]

The food industry is equally important to the Atlantic economy, comprising nearly 20,000 businesses, from small family-owned farming operations and businesses with fewer than five employees to global corporations. All told, the Atlantic food industry exported $6.1 billion in 2017. The industry is incredibly diverse and complex, including a wide variety of business models in all provinces.

ACOA investments between April 1, 2016 to February 20, 2019  are valued at approximately $126 million with total project value of just over $427 million.

Atlantic Canada Food Working Group

In January 2018 the Atlantic Canada Food Working Group (ACFWG) was created to support growth in the food sector across Atlantic Canada. The ACFWG includes representatives from: the four Atlantic Provinces; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Employment and Social Development Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; and ACOA.

The working group is guided by the results of extensive consultations in fall 2017 with industry and regional food infrastructure partners. Industry commentary revealed a number of issues, many of them complex and multijurisdictional in scope, that fall under the following themes: labour, business growth, technology/automation, research and development, transportation, export, and regulation and policy.

The work of the ACFWG is being carried out in the context of The Agri-food Economic Strategy Table’s recommended themes for agri-food:

1.         Increasing innovation and seizing value-added opportunities;
2.        Adopting technology and advancing digitization;
3.        Modernizing infrastructure and regulations;
4.        Increasing market access and growing exports; and
5.        Dealing with labour shortages and being prepared for the future.

These priorities make up the pillars of the ACFWG Food Action Plan. In July 2018, the federal-provincial Food Action Plan was presented to the Leadership Committee.


Implementation of the federal-provincial Food Action Plan by the ACFWG continues to support opportunities to grow the sector. Following are some the ongoing projects supported through the work of the ACFWG:

Atlantic Food Network

To support the Atlantic Food Network Steering Committee’s analysis of the Atlantic food network,  Food and Beverage Atlantic with funding from ACOA, is assessing gaps and benefits of a food network. This network could help businesses access programs and services through a single window, provide market intelligence and development, coordinate food and seafood innovation research, and support a task team that identifies priorities and implements coordinated solutions. Recommendations from the analysis will be presented to the Atlantic Food Network Steering Committee in April.

Research Cluster

In collaboration with ACOA, Springboard Atlantic mapped regional research capacity and identified commercial research needs for the lobster industry. This work was presented to a joint industry-university research group to help develop commercially-focused research projects to support innovation, value-added opportunities, exports and modernizing infrastructure and regulations.

Food Automation Trade Mission

ACOA and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) are organizing a business delegation to attend Germany’s Hannover Messe Trade Show (April 1-5, 2019) directed to technology awareness and advanced manufacturing. The Atlantic delegation will focus on food automation applications.

Pan Atlantic Food Automation Sessions

Food automation sessions took place across Atlantic Canada to grow awareness and capacity in the sector. These sessions will become annual events to educate and assist industry with automation requirements.

[1] Overview of the Food and Beverage Processing Industry 2016

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