ERA is committing $33 million for 17 projects with a combined value of $107 million in public and private investment. Funding will advance technology innovations in Alberta’s agriculture, agri-food, and forestry sectors. It will create jobs, attract investment, open new markets and deliver it all with improved environmental performance.

Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon, announced the winners of the Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge with ERA CEO, Steve MacDonald, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at ERA’s Lessons Learned Workshop and SPARK Speaker Series online event. Funding comes from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund and supports innovation in the agriculture, agri-food, and forestry sectors.

If successful, these technology innovations will lead to cumulative GHG reductions of up to 2.7 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030. From the 17 approved projects, four are categorized as natural solutions, seven are in the bioindustry and bioenergy sector, and six projects are in the agriculture and agri-food sector. These technologies are at the pilot, demonstration, or first-of-kind commercial deployment stage of development.

The following projects were selected for funding:

Linear Restoration Equipment Modernization and Deployment 
Total project value: $1,800,000 | ERA commitment: $890,000
Provide industry with more effective tools to remediate linear disturbances in the boreal and foothill forests of Alberta created by the geophysical exploration for oil and gas.

GHG Saving and Internationally Scalable Ultra High Recovery Industrial Wastewater Treatment at an Albertan Agri-Chem Facility

Total project value: $9,500,000 | ERA commitment: $2,600,000
Treat and reuse industrial wastewater to avoid land-spreading and/or use of disposal wells.

Product and Production Innovations for Using Alberta’s Surplus Poplar to Enhance Carbon Sequestration 
Total project value: $1,600,000 | ERA commitment: $500,000
Develop and test a novel process for making oriented strand board and engineered strand-based products. The new materials will utilize Alberta’s surplus poplar resource.

Commercial Pilots and Demonstrations of Rapid Drone Reforestation Technology
Total Project value: $5,450,000 | ERA commitment: $1,800,000
Utilize drone reforestation technology and hardware, aerial mapping software, automation, and biological seed pod technology to reforest boreal areas at a rapid pace.

The Conversion of Forestry Residue to Advanced Biofuels in Alberta 
Project value: $12,610,000 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000
Convert waste biomass from forests and fields into a biocrude with lower oxygen and water content compared to other biocrudes.

New Production System 
Project value: $69,000,000 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000
New productive system and standard for feedlot anaerobic digestion and waste management.

Sustainable Nanofiltration Technology for Vegetable Oil Refining 
Project value: $3,600,000 | ERA commitment: $1,800,000
Transformative technology for separation and filtration applications in food sector and beyond.

RNG from Pulp Mill Waste 
Project value: $18,670,000 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000
Produce valuable renewable natural gas from the pulp mill’s wastewater treatment anaerobic digestor.

Bio-sourced asphalt from the Canadian forest industry 
Project value: $1,250,000 | ERA commitment: $350,000
Developing a bitumen-lignin asphalt formulation to be used in the paving industry.

Brewery GHG reduction
Project value: $200,000 | ERA commitment: $102,000
Adopt a CO2 capture and reuse technology in its fermentation process to reduce GHG emissions.

Application of Artificial Intelligence at Pulp Refiners to Optimize Energy Usage and Product Quality 
Project value: $1,460,000 | ERA commitment: $730,000
Use a Pulp Expert System (PES) driven by artificial intelligence (AI) at the refining stage of the pulping process to reduce energy consumption and improve product quality.

Cattle Feed Additive for Reducing Methane Emissions 
Project value: $15,000,000 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000 
Commercially grow and process a feed additive for cattle based on a strain of red macroalgae (Asparagopsis) that could potentially reduce methane emissions from cattle.

Achieving on-farm carbon neutrality through the datafication of waste 
Project value: $1,370,000| ERA commitment: $650,000
Use a technology (known as PLANT) to transform paunch manure into two distinct natural fertilizers, reducing on-farm methane emissions by up to 82 per cent in cattle processing.

Project value: $1,500,000 | ERA commitment: $638,000
Develop a dual-purpose grain cart/seed tender unit for the grain farming industry. This unit is suitable for use as a grain cart in the fall during harvest season and as a seed tender cart in the spring to deliver seed and fertilizer to a seeding tool.

Impact of genomics-enhanced whole herd genetic management platform on reducing beef GHGs
Project value: $5,500,000| ERA commitment: $490,000
Development and demonstrate a genomics enhanced whole herd management platform for the beef industry.

Use Ag waste and craft brewer’s grain to grow high value mushrooms and produce livestock feed
Project value: $2,000,000 | ERA commitment: $500,000
Use agricultural by-product (spent brewer grain which would have gone to land fill) as a growing media for specialty mushroom production in a containerized system and use the leftover substrate after mushroom harvesting (called Mycopro) as cattle feed.

Doef’s Greenhouses CO2 and Heat Capture 
Project value: $5,100,000| ERA commitment: $2,000,000
Construct a 13-acre hydroponic vegetable greenhouse, co-located with a natural gas field, and heat it using waste heat from the adjacent natural gas fired tri-generation (electricity, heat and CO2) power plant.

Funding will be distributed on a milestone basis and the progress of each project is reported on until completion. All recipients are required to produce a final outcomes report that will be shared publicly for the broader benefit of Alberta. All projects involve field piloting, demonstration, or commercial deployment of technology within the province.


Projects were selected through ERA’s competitive review process. A team of experts in science, engineering, business development, commercialization, financing, and greenhouse gas quantification conducted an independent, rigorous, transparent review overseen by a Fairness Monitor. ERA’s Board of Directors made the final funding decision based on the recommendation of these experts.


ERA’s Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge was launched in June 2020. A total of 150 applications were received requesting a total of $383 million for projects worth $1.5 billion. Applications were open to projects that support long-term competitiveness and stimulate growth in the critically important agriculture, agri-food, fibre, and forestry sectors. The Challenge was designed to provide near-term capital to innovators in these critical Alberta industries, while also identifying opportunities and solutions for long-term economic recovery, investment attraction, job creation, and emissions reduction.

Innovators with pilot, demonstration, scale-up, and first-of-kind deployment projects were invited to apply. Farmers, ranchers, innovators, technology developers, Indigenous communities, industry, industrial associations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research and development (R&D) organizations, universities, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, government research labs, and individuals were encouraged to submit applications. Partnerships and collaborations between multiple organizations were also encouraged.

ERA’s Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge is well-aligned with current and future funding programs through the Agriculture Funding Consortium (AFC) and the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN). ERA is working with AFC, CAAIN, and other related programs to explore co-funding opportunities and reduce the administrative burden for applicants. ERA will also work to align with the research priorities and project opportunities identified by the Results Driven Agricultural Research (RDAR) initiative.

ERA hosted a workshop to identify ideas with experts from the agriculture, agri-food, and forestry sectors to define the scope of the call. Ideas included creating value from agricultural and forest waste, nutrient management, automation and digitization of operations, genomics, applications of alternative energy, zero carbon seeding, monitoring and detection technologies, and nature based-solutions.

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Agriculture and forestry are critical to the economy of Alberta. This investment, driven by the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulation, will help advance innovative processes and technologies that increase Alberta’s long-term competitiveness, growth, and export readiness. There is significant opportunity to use resources more efficiently, reduce emissions, and grow production. It builds on Alberta’s strengths in agriculture, forestry, and land use. These investments can be used to bolster these existing industries and support projects from small and medium enterprises in these sectors.

In 2018, the agriculture and forest sectors employed over 100,000 Albertans. Alberta’s agri-food exports reached a record $11.6 billion, an increase of 3 per cent from 2017 (led by wheat, beef, and canola) and forest products exports reached $4.2 billion, an increase of 20 per cent from 2017. Globally, Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, with the total value of sales topping $55 billion annually.

Our agricultural sector is an important part of Alberta’s economy. In 2017, the province produced:

  • Over 40 per cent of Canada’s total cattle inventory
  • 33 per cent of the country’s wheat
  • 32 per cent of its canola
  • Half of its barley.

In 2017, Alberta emitted over 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from agricultural, agri-food and forestry operations combined. This is over 28 per cent of Canada’s total emissions from these sectors. There is an opportunity to reduce emissions and lower costs in the production and processing of food and fibre, and also leverage nature-based solutions that sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Investments in food, fibre, and bioindustries fits within ERA’s portfolio. Since 2009, ERA has funded over $95 million worth of projects in the food, fibre and bioindustries. These projects are estimated to reduce emissions by 11.4 Mt CO2e by 2030. With several of Alberta’s large industrial emitters found in this sector, opportunities exist to not only reduce emissions from production and processing of food and fibre, but also to leverage nature-based solutions and other activities that sequester carbon from the atmosphere.


Expressions of interest were invited for projects that advance innovation to the stages of field piloting, commercial demonstration, or first-of-kind commercial implementation, as described below:

  • Field Test/Pilot: At this stage the technology or innovation is ready to be field tested in an operational environment. Projects in this category include scale up of prototypes to representative pilot scale and subsequent in-field testing of pilot units.
  • Commercial Demonstration: At this stage of development, the technology or innovation is approaching the final commercial product and representative systems have been built. Projects in this category include demonstration of near- or fully-commercial scale systems in an operational environment.
  • First-of-Kind Commercial Implementation: At this stage, the technology is ready for first-of-kind commercial deployment. Projects in this category will involve design, construction, and operation of the technology in its final commercial form, with the intent to operate the technology for its full commercial life.