Canadian businesses can continue cultivating new U.S opportunities with AgTech accelerator

The Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) is continuing to help innovative Canadian businesses access new opportunities in the thriving industry of Agriculture Tech, or AgTech, with its new cohort in the United States.

Since 2013, the CTA program, delivered by the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), has supported the international scaling‑up of high‑growth, high‑potential Canadian firms in the sectors of cleantech, life sciences and information and communications technology (ICT).

As technologies and digital solutions have become more versatile, with applications in various industries, so has the CTA. Introduced in 2018, the AgTech CTA has already run successful cohorts in Mexico and the United States—a natural first step for Canadian companies looking to grow internationally.

The Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco AgTech cohort will run from September to December 2021 and is now accepting applications. Participants will gain access to two of the biggest AgTech markets in the United States—California and the Upper Midwest.

“What we’re able to do is offer two very different opportunities. Minnesota grows big crops, it’s corn and soybeans, whereas California is more specialty crops and products, it’s the wine region. I think being able to access both in such a short period of time is very valuable for companies,” says Christina Connelly, a Minneapolis‑based trade commissioner leading the cohort.

What are the opportunities for Canadian businesses?

California and Minnesota are two of the biggest agriculture markets in the United States, ranking #1 (US$ 50.1 billion) and #5 (US$16.7 billion) respectively for total agriculture salesFootnote1. Both markets are leaders in agricultural exports as well, but each offer their own unique opportunities for Canadian businesses.

Overview of the AgTech Industry in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona

Learn more about the AgTech market in the SoCal region, as well as neighboring markets, with our new market report.

“California, and North California specifically, is a great target market for Canadian businesses whether they are looking to sell products, services and technologies or develop new partnerships. It has a booming startup and venture capital scene as well as world class R&D [research and development]”, says Carmen Zanfirescu, trade commissioner in San Francisco.

Participants will also get exposure to Southern California, which is unique in its own way. The Los Angeles region is home to a growing tech cluster and an environmentally conscious consumer base that makes an impact with its demand for sustainable agriculture.

“Southern California has a dry ecosystem that is prone to droughts. As a result, technologies that focus on water efficiency, soil health, precision agriculture and climate adaptation are all important to the region,” adds Jenny Karnjanavijaya, trade commissioner in Los Angeles.

Minnesota is a much different market and provides access to the Midwest region. The state was built on a farming economy and is still made up of 51% farmland1, home to big corporations and industry players.

“A lot of manufacturing was historically born in the Midwest. Those companies now often have venture arms and strategic partnership arms that offer a variety of different funding opportunities for companies,” says Connelly.

Why participate in the CTA?

The upcoming AgTech cohort will help Canadian companies currently or looking to fundraise their seed to Series A within the next 12 months. The program will be delivered virtually but may include in‑market activities depending on travel restrictions and advisories at the time.

“One thing to note about the CTA is that there is no cost to the participants, unlike most accelerators and incubators that charge a fee or take company equity,” says Karnjanavijaya.

Companies that are selected for the program will benefit from a number of activities and events:

“A lot of the program’s value actually comes from interacting with the other Canadian participants. These companies are all in the same boat with similar pain points that we, as trade commissioners, can’t always understand in the same deep way,” says Connelly.

What advice would you give to companies interested in the market?

  1. When you’re pitching to a big investor, it could be your only shot. It is important to be polished and prepared to answer key questions.

    “You don’t need to give investors all the details in your first pitch. All you need to cover is the problem you are solving, the market size, what your solution is and how you make money – and make sure to have your numbers ready. What you really want is to grab their attention and make them want to learn more about what you do. These are all things we coach companies on early in the CTA program,” says Zanfirescu.

  2. Think about the end-user. In AgTech it is often a farmer, which can be overlooked by firms that start in a different field like ICT or healthcare.

    “Farmer’s come at things very differently. They can be hesitant and conservative, and they don’t want to be told what to do. It is important to keep that in mind and come in ready to listen,” says Connelly.

  3. Leverage TCS services and funding opportunities like CanExport Innovations which helps Canadian businesses pursue collaborative R&D projects in international markets.

    “The TCS helps Canadian companies that are ready to do business abroad in different ways, the CTA is just one of the programs we offer,” says Karnjanavijaya.

Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco AgTech – Canadian Technology Accelerator

The Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) global business development program will help guide your strategic growth in key markets. These include the following California and the Upper Midwest markets:

Accelerate your growth in the U.S. – Apply today.

1 Source: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2021 (available in English only)

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