Original Published 09:12 May 24, 2022

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Albertans should be seeing new jobs in the agricultural industries as the Alberta government in partnership with the federal government helps kickstart the hemp industry in Alberta with two grants totalling $900,000.

“Alberta’s growing hemp industry is helping to build a strong agriculture sector that creates jobs and brings tremendous opportunities to communities across the province,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in a press release. “By producing, processing and creating value-added products within the province, the hemp industry can remain sustainable and agile, while seizing new opportunities in domestic and export markets.” 

“By purchasing hemp directly from Alberta’s farmers and processing it here in the province, these projects will mitigate production risks for producers and create new value-added hemp products that will help grow Alberta’s thriving hemp industry,” said Nate Horner the Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Forestry and Rural Economic Development. 

One of the two companies that received grants from the government was INCA. This globally recognized hemp manufacturing company received a grant of $400,000 and in return, they will be constructing a new $72 million processing facility in the Town of Vegreville. 

“I’m proud to support this significant investment through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership that will further diversify our agriculture sector and create good    jobs right here in Vegreville at INCA’s $72-million hemp processing facility,” said Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. 

“Alberta’s hemp industry has seen significant growth over the past two decades and is playing an increasingly important role in our economy, creating jobs and generating value-added products for exports,” said Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer. “While the province is now Canada’s top hemp producer, growing 40 per cent of the country’s hemp, there are more opportunities for growth and diversification in the agri-processing industry. This investment will not only increase the demand for Alberta-grown hemp, but it will also create new manufacturing and processing jobs for Albertans.” 

The second grant of $500,000 was given to Blue Sky Hemp Ventures, a company working with hemp whole plant utilization. With this grant, they will be constructing a $75 million hemp food process- ing facility with an Alberta. 

“This announcement firmly demon- strates the Alberta government’s commit- ment to fostering the enormous growth potential of the hemp industry,” said Andrew Potter, CEO of Blue Sky Hemp Ventures. “Together, with INCA, we look forward to maximizing the value to a farmer by utilizing the whole hemp crop while producing healthy food ingredients and sustainable industrial products.” 

“Today’s announcement is an example of a unique, high-impact investment that combines agri-tech, cleantech and innovation,” said Rick Christiaanse, CEO of Invest Alberta. “Alberta’s welcoming business climate and hemp supercluster  continue to position the province as a destination of choice for new and exciting investment opportunities as this industry continues to take root across Alberta.” 

Both of these grants were made possible through the Emerging Opportunities program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. This program is designed to support strategic investment into stimulating the creation of new jobs in Alberta as well as growth within the agriculture sector. 

“Hemp is a multibillion-dollar industry that is growing exponentially,” said Manny Deol, executive director of Alberta Hemp Alliance. “By creating this space and supporting value-added opportunities such as INCA and Blue Sky, Alberta can lead Canada’s hemp industry and attract more global attention and investments.” 

The INCA hemp processing facility in Vegreville will create more than 70 new manufacturing jobs as well as create the demand for 54,000 tonnes of hemp biomass per year. This demand is expected to provide $270 million in annual farm income over the next 25 years. 

“I, along with members of Vegreville town council, have long believed our community could serve as a potential hub for North America’s burgeoning hemp industry,” said Tim MacPhee, mayor of the Town of Vegreville. “We would like to thank INCA, as well as MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk and the provincial and federal governments for their investment, faith, and shared vision. I’d also like to specifically thank Alberta Innovates. Vegreville is fortunate to be home to some of the brightest minds in the hemp research industry and their efforts in advocating for our community helped  make this opportunity a reality.” 

“INCA Renewtech is delighted to join a talented consortium from agriculture, industry and the public sector to create the Alberta hemp supercluster,” said David Saltman, CEO of INCA Renewtech. “The governments of Canada and Alberta have been generous in supporting the project and we very much look forward to working with them to make the hemp supercluster an important part of the Alberta economy.” 

Blue Sky Hemp Ventures processing facility will create over 90 new jobs in rural Alberta as well as producing $45 million in annual farm revenue for hemp grain. This facility is intended to scale up Blue Sky’s production of cold-pressed purified hemp seed oil for use in cosmetics and food. This facility in Alberta will be the first large scale hemp food production facility with a planned capacity of producing 35,000 tonnes of hemp grain. 

“Over 40 per cent of Canada’s hemp is grown in Alberta, with the majority of Alberta’s hemp grown in southern Alberta,” said Roy Brewin, owner of Rowland Farms Inc., a Taber based business specializing in the production of hemp, in a statement sent to the Times. “Rowland Farms is Canada’s largest hemp grower and in the earlier hemp years, we were growing more acres than all other growers combined total here in southern Alberta. The federal and provincial governments are investing in processing plants in an area of Alberta where not as much hemp is grown and that is a strong indicator of the good job the town of Vegreville did in recruiting and working with the developers of these processing plants to ensure they invested within that community.” 

This item reprinted with permission from Taber Times, Taber, Alberta