Have you ever wondered which British Columbia companies incorporate the most innovation and the latest technology? Would it surprise you to know that tech touches nearly every industry in B.C.?
British Columbians may be interested to discover forestry company Canfor is near the very top of the list of tech adopters. Canfor is one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable lumber, pulp and paper and a leader in bioenergy production, with a strong presence as one of Prince George’s major employers. “Canfor is one of the largest employers in Prince George,” says Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount. “This is a company that is taking tech and innovation to the next level and evolving one of B.C.’s most long-standing industries. With over 4,000 employees provincewide, Canfor is creating jobs and contributing to our provincial economy.”
With a history dating back to 1938, when John Prentice and Poldi Bentley opened a furniture and paneling veneer business in Vancouver, over time the company has grown and evolved, incorporating technology to attain a top spot in the industry.
Director of biofuel development James Spankie explains how Canfor marries technology and innovation with forestry to maintain that position as a global leader. “Our pulp mills incorporate the latest technology, such as specialized flame cameras that optimize heat efficiency in our kilns and turbo generating equipment to take the steam that runs the mills and generate electricity,” says Spankie. “Technology allows us to optimize our harvest both inside and out of our sawmills, from using a three dimensional scanner to maximize the lumber produced from a single piece of timber, to planning our harvest and logistics before making a single cut.”
Innovation also plays a central role in Canfor’s operations, so much so the company boasts its own innovation centre in Burnaby. “The centre is dedicated to searching out leading edge innovation we can use to improve our existing processes; even if we’re not the first to adopt a new kind of technology, we are definitely quick followers,” says Spankie. “For the past three years we have partnered with a company in Australia to see how we can implement their catalytic hydrothermal system, which uses pressure, heat and a proprietary chemistry to turn organic waste like wet bark into a substitute for crude oil.”
“Canfor is a great example of the important role technology plays in our community and how it touches nearly every industry,” says Mike Morris, MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie. “Our government created the #BCTECH Strategy to help grow B.C.’s tech sector and by doing so, we are ensuring communities provincewide can thrive and support a multitude of industries.”
The #BCTECH Strategy is a key component of the BC Jobs Plan to support the growth of British Columbia’s vibrant technology sector and strengthen B.C.’s diverse innovation economy. The multi-year strategy includes a $100-million BC Tech Fund and initiatives to increase talent development and market access for tech companies that will drive innovation and productivity throughout the province.
- Canfor boasts three pulp mills, two sawmills, a seedling nursery and an administration office in Prince George.
- Canfor employed more than 6,200 people in 2015, including over 4,000 British Columbians.
- In 2015, Canfor planted over 78 million trees.
- B.C.’s technology sector is growing faster than the overall economy. In 2014, it grew at a rate of 3.3%, a higher rate than the 2.9% growth observed in the provincial economy.
#BCTECH Strategy: bctechstrategy.ca
Listen to the BC Innovation Council’s podcast about Canfor here: bcic.ca/news/blog/one-bc-based-company-turning-trees-jet-fuel