Idea Lab with Alex Fallon: Challenging the norms of Saskatchewan business and economics
While everyone chases the tech sector, is Saskatoon already a global leader in techmodity?
If it’s not a truth universally acknowledged, maybe it should be: when everyone is doing the same thing, that’s your hint to try something different. There must be a fridge magnet or inspirational quote out there proclaiming this.
These days, it seems like every city is calling itself a tech city.
Vancouver? Calgary? Bermuda Triangle? Check, check and check… Except by Bermuda Triangle, I mean “Canada’s Tech Triangle,” which includes the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.
A recent report by Expert Market lists the top 25 cities in Canada to launch a tech company. The report includes such unexpected places as Saint John, Burlington and Brampton. In fact, it reads more like a list of the top 25 most populated cities in Canada. And there are plenty of these kinds of tech lists: top tech cities in the USA, top global tech cities, top ten emerging tech cities, top tech cities on the moon, etc.
There’s no doubt that Saskatoon has a strong and growing tech sector, including Mentor, 7shifts, Vendasta, TinyEYE and more. They’re supported by great organizations like SREDA (I had to say that), Co.Labs, Innovation Enterprise, Innovation Saskatchewan and SaskTech, to name a few. Saskatoon’s tech sector will continue to grow and that’s a great thing for our city.
But beyond our strengths as a growing tech locale, Saskatoon might already be the global leader in techmodity. What exactly is techmodity, you ask?
Tech.mod.it.y (noun)/: The application of technology to the commodities and natural resources sector to drive innovation and productivity (Fallon’s Dictionary).
It’s clear from Saskatchewan’s history that we’ve been leaders in this area for decades, even if we didn’t call it that (because we just invented the word).
We’ve been doing techmodity in Saskatchewan for a long time. For example, in the 1960’s the potash industry developed the Blairmore Ring. They temporarily froze the water around the Blairmore layer, and then added cast iron rings to keep the shaft open so they could drill to the potash deposits. Sounds like techmodity to me.
Saskatchewan’s uranium industry also involves remarkable stories of techmodity. Remote mining techniques have been used in uranium mining for at least 30 years to help protect workers from high-grade uranium ore radiation. Cameco’s Cigar Lake Mine uses jet boring to allow some of the richest uranium ore bodies in the world to be safely mined.
And while the Saskatchewan Mining Association has been a leader in supporting exploration and mining companies’ ESG (environmental, social and governance) performance, the International Mineral Innovation Institute (IMII) shows further evidence of our techmodity expertise. They’re helping Saskatchewan become the world’s most innovative mining and minerals industry.
Don’t just take my word for it, either. Talk to Eric Anderson at the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers Association (SIMSA), and he’d give you lots of examples, like how the builders of the International Space Station took time out of their busy calendars to visit Saskatoon mining suppliers in a 40-below February. Or how the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is building one of the first rare earth elements processing facilities outside China, right here in Saskatoon using many Saskatchewan suppliers.
Saskatchewan’s technological advancement in the agriculture sector to develop and export more ag-commodities than ever before, well, that’s techmodity, too. To summarize these advancements would take an essay – and you know I can’t write that much.
With decades of expertise in agriculture, mining, and oil and gas, Saskatoon stands out not just as one of many tech cities, but also as a world leader in techmodity. These sectors have created jobs across generations in Saskatchewan, and their continued innovation bodes a bright future for our economy in the long term.