Ferrie was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1777 and set up a cotton printing shop there in 1792. He moved to Glasgow in 1799. After expanding rapidly until around 1815, his business experienced some financial setbacks. While rebuilding his business, he set up an import-export business with William Cormack in Montreal; he also built a ship to handle the company's trade. He moved to Montreal with his family in 1829 so that he could keep better control of the business. Ferrie opened a branch in Hamilton in Upper Canada; his sons, Colin Campbell and Adam Jr., managed the operation there. Additional branches were opened in Preston, Brantford, Nelson and Dundas. Ferrie was a member of the Montreal Committee of Trade and helped form its successor, the Montreal Board of Trade, in 1842. He was appointed to the municipal council for Montreal in 1840 and, in 1841, to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada. Besides his involvement with politics, he also invested his time in the less fortunate members of the community, helping to aid victims of cholera, mainly new immigrants, and forming a cooperative bakery so that bread could be purchased at reasonable prices.
Ferrie helped form the City Bank of Montreal and held shares in the Gore Bank at Hamilton. He left Montreal for Hamilton in 1853 and died there in 1863.