Niagara’s thriving agribusiness sector - which runs from basic operations to high-end commercial products - consists of vineyards, fruit trees, wineries and greenhouses that grow flowers and vegetables year-round.
However, this model could be even stronger if there was closer co-operation with sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, government and institutions conducting research.
This is one of the findings of “Niagara’s Agribusiness Sector: Towards a More Resilient Innovation Cluster,” the latest policy brief from Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) in collaboration with the Niagara Region’s Economic Development division.
“Niagara’s agribusiness sector should link more closely to the manufacturing and tourism sectors so that the region’s economy can better adapt to change,” says NCO Director and policy brief author Charles Conteh, who presented the brief on Tuesday, June 18 at the Meridian Community Centre in Pelham. “Research and innovation are among the tools that could increase Niagara’s resiliency in this way.”
Valerie Kuhns, the Niagara Region’s Acting Director of Strategic Economic Initiatives, Economic Development, called agribusiness “a critical component to Niagara’s economy, contributing more than $1.4 billion to regional GDP.” : “We continue to see new investment and economic opportunity across many agribusiness industries,” she said, “however, there are challenges in the sector that we must better understand.”
Three main challenges
The policy brief identifies three looming challenges in the sector’s pursuit of greater resilience and adaptability. One is “lock-in syndrome,” being stuck in a cultural rut with few fresh ideas and resistance to change. Another challenge is “organizational thinness,” or the lack of platforms or networks to create broader development through innovation and adaptation. A third challenge is “internal fragmentation,” or lack of a shared understanding of agribusiness among farmers, entrepreneurs, workers, industry associations and educational institutions.
Niagara’s agribusiness sector covers more than 215,000 acres of farmland and around 22 million square feet of greenhouse area. There are more than 1,800 farms, about 200 greenhouses, nearly 100 wineries and more than 112 food processing companies, according to an article on thoroldnews.com.