Agriculture and science have roots that grow deep in Saskatchewan. With over 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, agriculture has traditionally been the economic mainstay in the province. And, for more than 100 years, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has been central to the creation of the life-science cluster, building scientific capacity over the past century.
Merging these two essential areas of science and agriculture has created huge opportunities in Saskatchewan’s life-sciences industry. Today, the ‘science cluster’ in Saskatchewan has grown to encompass two university campuses and two research parks, as well as a number of provincially and nationally funded research institutions and technical training centres. These provide a stable base for high level research in the life sciences.
- The University of Saskatchewan, with seven life-science colleges – including the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, and the College of Engineering, which is very involved in biofuels research – along with numerous centres devoted to research. The Crop Development Centre at the U of S – recognized internationally for basic and applied crop research and development and successful field crop breeding – has released more than 300 commercial crop varieties since it was created in 1971.
- Two federal government labs: Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada – Saskatoon Research Centre, and the National Research Council‐Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC‐PBI). Having these research centres located on the U of S campus creates synergies and adds expertise to the cluster.
Activity in Saskatchewan’s ag-biotech sector includes crop development, biofuels and bioproducts development, natural health products, vaccines and genomics research.
Saskatchewan researchers are busy developing hardy crops, more nutritious food and better feeds, giving farmers more options. Some examples:
- Saskatchewan is Canada’s main producer of wheat, oats, flax, and barley.
- Many wheat varieties were developed here, with better disease resistance – and hardy enough to handle our climate.
- Canola was developed in Saskatoon, at Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada.
- Canada is the world’s largest exporter of flax (mainly for oil but also for fibre), and Saskatchewan is the biggest producer of all the provinces.
- Pulses are important crops here. Saskatchewan is a major exporter of lentils, and the world’s largest exporter of dry peas, with 70% of Canada’s peas grown here.
- Almost 90 percent of Canadian mustard production comes from Saskatchewan
- Canada is also a major exporter of malting barley. Harrington barley was developed here and has become a world standard for malting barley quality.
- Other crops include oats, rye, triticale, sunflower and canary seed. Work is also being done on camelina, a hardy plant with high oil content that has potential in many areas, from fuels to cosmetics, to agriculture feeds.
Agribusiness is important to the well‐being of the province, and this is recognized both at the government level, and by the general population, urban and rural. This sets the stage for support in the long‐term and understanding of industry needs.