What is a Supercluster?
A supercluster is an innovation hotbed that is home to a strong industrial cluster, or clusters, linked through their shared reliance on specialized inputs, including technologies, talent and infrastructure.
How does the SASC benefit the Canadian economy?
Through appropriate scalable innovations investment, conducive policy and good marketing SASC should generate 300,000 jobs and over $30 B in economic benefits. These benefits will be distributed across the country, although the more agriculturally intensive areas will benefit more.

SASC will generate economic impacts a) through its direct spending on projects and b) through increasing the productivity and competitiveness of the agri-food sector. The magnitude of the economic impacts of the SASC was estimated using:
  • Input from cluster partners on the expected and potential increase in revenues of ag and food subsectors due to the SASC.
  • An input output model to estimate the total (direct, indirect and induced) economic impacts associated with the estimated increase in revenues. The input-output methodology is endorsed by and uses multipliers published by Statistics Canada. It is a widely used and accepted approach that also facilitates easy comparisons between reported economic impacts for other industries and projects.
What role will Canada’s academic institutions play in the supercluster?
While the SASC is industry lead, academic institutions will play a critical role in partnering with stakeholders to create solutions that lead to sustainable intensification to increase production and reduce costs, create higher value products and markets, and capitalize on the bio economy. SASC will not only fund this work, but will create academic collaborations around systems-based solutions that support scaling and more efficient use of resources. Educating the youth in these systems and solutions is important in order to build on one of our biggest strengths, our highly educated work force. There are currently 17 educational and research institutions from Alberta to PEI engaged in the SASC, and we expect to attract additional participants as we move to implementation.
Will SASC ensure that it is an inclusive and diverse entity?
Yes. SASC’s Board will have 50 / 50 gender balance and they will include a best practice diversity policy. They will also have a working group focused on diversity, chaired by the President of Global Compact Network Canada. This group will initially work to ensure governance practices are in place consistent with the UN Guiding Principles and support implementation of the Young Women in Ag Innovation and iGrow Change First Nations garden and greenhouse projects. SASC is also a member of the Canadian Private Sector Gender Equality Leadership Project.
What benefit will SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) get from the SASC?
SME innovations are often stranded due to a lack of investment, ability to access markets in a cost efficient manner and an inability to overcome common data standards, interfaces and metrics. SASC will help address these through its unique innovation community, field systems model and by creating an ecosystem in which they can work with other academic, industry and NGO partners. SASC will also support them through the creation of a venture capital investment community.

Farms and ranches will benefit from the collaboration and integration of systems and technologies built with a common backbone, improving their access to world class systems to improve production and profitability of their operations, while being more sustainable and connected to end use markets.
Can I participate in the SASC?
Yes. The SASC is built on a collaborative model the brings stakeholders together to break down silos that often result in stranded innovation.
Is the SASC approach too broad, and not focused on one area?
The SASC will focus on innovation investments which remove barriers in systems that connect across the value chain. By focusing on these specific areas of constraint we can sustainably increase production and profitability by leveraging the broad diversity of expertise across Canada. For too long the Ag sector has been a closed shop; we need to bring in expertise from other industries and leverage their experience to drive a step change in agriculture. This will create higher value end products and markets to capitalize on Canada’s leadership in the burgeoning bio economy space.
Will there be money/opportunities available for stakeholders who were not involved early?
Yes. SASC strategically did not allocate a significant portion of the requested funds and will use the innovation communities to identify key opportunities and conduct RFPs to select solutions. We frankly saw it as presumptuous to assume we could come up with all the best ideas before we unleashed the power of the innovation communities. Almost ½ of our total ask is unallocated, allowing us to explore new opportunities and incorporate good projects from other clusters who may not be successful in phase 2 of the process.
Why use field systems within your model?
Field systems provide five main benefits to SASC members:

  • They connect across the value chain from input providers to the consumer/public, removing silos and supporting efforts to create common metrics, interface and an implementation language
  • Resources can be focused for the greatest return by using systems and identifying and addressing pinch points that limit economic, social or environment impacts.
  • Impacts can be quickly scaled by leveraging the huge extension systems of agriculture retailers, service providers, growers, NGOs, academic institutions and government which are also trained and familiar with these systems.
  • Systems maps and restrictions can be shared with academic and funding agencies to help inform funding decisions to optimize the use of public and private funds, reduce duplication and speed realization of impacts.
  • Farmers take an entity wide approach to decision making for farm management using principle based systems for nutrient management (4R) crop protection (Integrated Pest Management) and agronomic management. Precision farming tools help support these systems approaches. Systems integrate agronomic knowledge, science, technology with measurable outcomes.
  • Livestock producers integrate life cycle processes into animal care and marketing as well, often with interconnections to farming operations for grazing and crop rotation decisions.
Is the Bio Economy really an area that can contribute to the Canadian economy?
Canada is one of the world’s leaders in bio offsets for climate change, water and habitat. It has more protocols than any jurisdiction in the world. In order to address climate change, Canada has the highest carbon price with trading markets developing across the country and also with other jurisdictions like California. It is estimated that through appropriate scalable innovations investment, conducive policy and good marketing that this area could generate 40 Mt of CO2e reductions and associated jobs and economic returns , while at the same time positioning Canada as a global leader with the support of innovation community partners like Field to Market, IETA, WBCSD (World Business Council on Sustainable Development), Global Compact and SDSN (Sustainable Development Solutions Network). Those NGOs are committed to the SASC collaborative approach to innovation.

Based on estimates provided by project partners, it is estimated that over a 20 year period a cumulative total of over 200 Mt of CO2e emissions reductions and removals could be provided, due to the durable nature of the systems approach undertaken by SASC.
Is the SASC focused on one province or region?
No. SASC is a pan Canadian multi-stakeholder supercluster that will have nodes across the country in areas of agriculture innovation expertise. It is expected there will also be nodes in AB, SK, ON and QC, with the intent to develop a node in PEI as well. The SASC Secretariat will be based in Alberta and will coordinate with the nodes, innovation communities and stakeholders across the country and internationally.
How long will it take to realize the economic and environmental benefits from the SASC?
SASC plans to be up in running with investments in the second quarter of 2018. Saying that, we believe value creation will follow a hockey stick curve as innovations are created and commercialized via the systems model. While we believe that with expected scaling opportunities there will be significant benefits in the first 5 years, from experience the greatest returns will occur in years 5-10 when additional real outcomes will occur due to the unique model. Most innovation is either stranded or dies due to a lack of investment, systems connectivity or market reach within the first five years. Under the SASC model this will be minimized as a longer term more sustainable approach is taken. The roads and bridges built through the SASC will be durable because they are systems driven, not project driven.
How does the SASC relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are 17 goals that the 193 United Nation member states agreed to reach by 2030. The Prime Minister has committed to report on Canada’s progress on the SDGs to the UN General Assembly.

The goals are very related to SASC and SASC could assist in reaching many of the goals including Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Gender Equality, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life below water, Life on land and of course goal 17 – Partnerships for the goals.

SASC will dramatically improve the innovation that can bring Canada on the right track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This will also help companies supplying to Global Big Players, as they all are committed to further the SDGs in their own companies as well as their supply chain, that includes many Canadian SMEs. So SASC will definitely also help achieve goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth.
What do you mean by innovation communities?
SASC is a pan Canadian, multi-stakeholder supercluster, designed to address the systems based, entity wide decision-making processes on farms, to dramatically improve competitiveness, productivity and market value by capitalizing on the diverse expertise across Canada using an inclusive strategy of collaboration based on investments in four innovation communities.

  • Digital
  • Genetic and Processing
  • Sustainable Livestock
  • Bio economy and Sustainability
These communities encompass educational institutions and both large and small enterprises from a diverse industry set; they simply don’t currently have a structure that allows them to coordinate their efforts and share their learning to drive innovation into the market. SASC will provide the structure and leadership to develop a common backbone to build from.
How will collaboration between innovation communities be developed?
The SASC Secretariat and associated committees will ensure there is wholistic collaboration through the creation of the innovation communities, which provide a format to understand barriers and develop bridges collaboratively. The role of the secretariat and associated committees will be to further identify areas of collaboration. Even so, many of the participants will be participants in various innovation communities, making the cross pollination more organic.
How does SASC make Canada more competitive globally?
The SASC intends to select and implement projects that will dramatically improve the competitiveness and productivity of the agri-food sector in Canada, starting at the farm and flowing through the full value chain, thereby unlocking tremendous long term national and global economic, social and environmental benefits.

With scaling, SASC investments will achieve over $30B in direct, indirect and induced economic benefits, 300,000 new jobs and over 40 MtCO2e of GHG reduction.

SASC is creating the ability to digitally connect the systems-based decisions in farm management with measures and metrics to quantify the outcomes desired by farmers, food processors, food retail companies and consumers.

Innovation communities bring stakeholders together to map systems and identify pinch points which are limiting the sustainable intensification of agriculture and create solutions which will create higher value products and improved environmental outcomes.

Utilizing common foundations like data standards for connectivity, best management practices for farm stewardship, and addressing common knowledge gaps, a diverse multi stakeholder innovation community will enable innovation, rapid adoption and reduce costs for all. Which will make it much easier for SMEs to commercialize their innovations.

Systems that enable the measurement of environment and economic outcomes will also help improve the climate resilience of agricultural production Canada. Working together with the world’s largest sustainability and bio economy industry and NGO leaders (Field to Market, WBSCS, Global Compact, IETA, SDSN) will ensure that systems and innovations created in Canada link to globally recognized efforts.
Where is the funding coming from?
In early 2017, Dominic Barton’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth identified the agrifood sector as one of the key opportunity areas to drive economic growth. In its 2017 Budget, the Federal Government put forward an agenda to spark growth and help Canada realize its potential as a global leader in innovation. The government has launched a funding initiative to accelerate this innovation through supercluster.

This initiative will incent industry partnerships between large and small industry participants, supported by other innovation ecosystem players, and help them to work together on ambitious market-driven proposals to supercharge their innovation ecosystems, enhancing the growth and competitiveness of participating firms and maximizing economic benefits, including good, well-paying jobs and prosperity for Canada.

Read the full report here