Economic Strategy - Agri-Food Table

Positioning Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sectors for long-term growth.


Murad Al-Katib, AGT Food & Ingredients


  • Robert Coallier, Agropur Dairy Cooperative
  • Sarah Davis, Loblaws
  • Marie-Pier Drouin, Joly Drouin et Filles
  • Bryana Ganong, Ganong Bros., Limited
  • Richard Harry, R Harry Fishing Ltd.
  • John Heimbecker, Parrish & Heimbecker
  • Robert Irving, Cavendish Farms
  • Shelley Martin, Nestlé Canada
  • Michael McCain, Maple Leaf Foods Inc.
  • Lee Moats, LLAMM Acres Ltd.
  • Susan Niczowski, Summer Fresh Salads Inc.
  • Ian D. Smith, Clearwater Seafoods Inc.
  • Ratana Stephens, Nature’s Path Foods Inc.
  • Alison Sunstrum, GrowSafe Systems Ltd.

Federal representatives

  • Chris Forbes, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada
  • John Knubley, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Producer Advisory Council

The producer advisory council will help inform the work of the Agri-Food Table.

  • Gary Baars
  • Mark Brock
  • Jack Froese
  • Kristjan Hebert
  • Stephanie Levasseur
  • Cedric Macleod
  • Jeanette Mongeon
  • Rene Roy
  • Nick Sekulic
  • Teresa Van Raay


October 24, 2017 Location: Woodbridge, Ontario


The table affirmed the need to look at the agri-food sector as a whole (including primary agriculture, fish, seafood, aquaculture, food processing, infrastructure and food service ) in order to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to its future growth.

What we talked about

  1. Participants spoke positively to the potential of the Canadian sector to help meet growing global demand for food. They also brought their unique perspectives to the table on the challenges facing the industry to be a sector of accelerated growth.
  2. Building upon introductory presentations on the state of play of Canadian innovation and the issues facing the agri-food sector, the table discussed the need for innovation in the sector, both to be at the leading edge of global competitors but also to meet consumers’ changing expectations of food and food products. The table also noted that Canada can be risk averse in developing and adopting innovations.
  3. Initial targets that were discussed include increasing exports, with a reference to the $75 billion ambitious growth target for 2025 set out in the Advisory Council on Economic Growth report, as well as increasing the amount of value added domestically to Canadian agricultural products.
  4. In discussing the competitive landscape, the table was interested in further exploring i) benchmarking Canada’s innovation output and rate of technology adoption against other global leaders, ii) analyzing infrastructure requirements to support capacity growth, iii) exploring strategies to increase scale-up of firms and support industry leaders in competing globally, and iv) finding opportunities for a regulatory approach that supports growth.

What we'll do next

  • Analytics to dive deeper into exploring how other countries have addressed these issues and reflect on these considering the unique Canadian experience while recognizing the different competitive pressures within the broad agri-food sector.
  • Advisory councils will be established with key stakeholders to inform the table’s work. The table will continue to encourage industry participants and all Canadians to share their views and ideas for transformative change in the sector throughout the course of this initiative, via the Economic Stratety Tables website and targeted outreach.

As the leader of a Canadian company with strong domestic roots, I think we are at a critical point in time in terms of the opportunities for our agri-food sector.

Agri-Food Table Member, October 24, 2017
December 12, 2017 Location: Toronto, Ontario


The Agri-Food Table held its second meeting on December 12 in Toronto, Ontario. The main focus of the meeting was to refine elements of the vision statement and identify the priority themes that will drive the Table’s future work.

What we talked about

  1. Dominic Barton, Chair of the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, spoke to the Table about the vision for Canada’s agri-food sector and the opportunities for economic growth being driven by population growth and a bourgeoning middle-class, particularly with regard to protein and value-added products. This led to a discussion highlighting the diversity of markets and consumer products, the importance of tailoring growth strategies according to consumer demand and Canada’s competitive advantages, and the need to synchronize government policy and regulations accordingly.
  2. Members reviewed the thematics proposed at the first Table meeting on October 24, and, in light of the morning’s discussions, coalesced on the priority themes that will drive the Table’s forward work: i) innovation and value-added opportunities, ii) technology and digitization, iii) infrastructure and regulations, iv) market access and export growth, and v) skills and labour.
  3. Members emphasized the need to be competitive. This can be accomplished by a business environment that keeps production costs competitive, but also by strategies such as product differentiation, reputation and branding, or pursuing markets for premium products.
  4. The Table discussed challenges to attract and retain workforce, and the impacts technology and automation will have for both the supply and demand of skills in the future.

What we'll do next

  • A vision statement based on outcomes of the Table's discussions will be drafted.
  • Additional analysis will be undertaken to explore the sectors and markets that have driven growth in the Canadian agri-food sector in recent years, along with global and domestic demand forecasts. A list of key government initiatives that are of relevance to the Agri-Food Table's work will also be provided.
  • The Producer Advisory Council will meet on December 18 and on January 15 in order to discuss the technology/digitization and market access/export growth themes, which will be the focus of the Table's next meeting on January 18.

Synchronization between our industrial growth strategies and the government’s policy and regulatory agenda is crucial to success.

Agri-food Table Member, December 12, 2017
January 18, 2018 Location: Toronto, Ontario


The Agri-Food Table held its third meeting on January 18 in Toronto, Ontario. The Table advanced its vision statement, discussed the elements of a competitive regulatory environment, defined bottlenecks and explored preliminary solutions to promote technology adoption and export growth.

What we talked about

  1. A revised vision statement was considered by members. The discussion centred on what kind of agri-food sector Canada wants for itself in 2025, and which elements will seed the creation of a growth strategy that captures the opportunities ahead.
  2. Following the release of the Third and Final Report of the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth in December 2017, Andrew Pickersgill, Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company Canada, delivered a presentation on the impacts of regulation on competitiveness and the overall business climate. This presentation was a prelude to the in-depth discussion on regulations which will take place at the next Table meeting in March.
  3. The Table’s champions for the technology & digitization theme presented their experiences with developing and adopting technology. This led to a roundtable discussion in which members shared their experiences with technology and the key barriers to adoption they face, such as the need for scale for investments to be profitable and challenges to hiring emloyees with the right skill sets.
  4. The Table’s champions for the market access & export growth theme presented their experiences breaking into new markets and growing their foreign presence. This led to a roundtable discussion with members on the key elements needed by firms as they prepare to make the jump to exporting, and strategies that would put more Canadian firms in a position to seize global opportunities. Members also acknowledged the importance of the domestic market, and not overlooking this opportunity for sector growth.

What we'll do next

  • The vision statement will be revised to reflect feedback from Table members.
  • Additional analytic material will be provided to Table members to contextualize different growth targets and develop possible scenarios for how they could be achieved.
  • The Producer Advisory Council will meet in February to provide input on the three themes that will be addressed at the March Table meeting: i) innovation and new value-added opportunities, ii) infrastructure and regulations, and iii) skills and labour.

The potential for technologies like artificial intelligence and predictive analytics in the agri-food sector is immense, particularly for things like on-time delivery of perishable goods.

Agri-food Table Member, January 18, 2018
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