National Newswatch

The federal government has selected Protein Industries Canada (PIC) as one of five winners under its $950 million Innovation Superclusters Program.

While PIC is an industry-led alliance of over 120 private-sector companies, academic institutions, and other stakeholders across Western Canada, its research and other actions will benefit farmers and processors across the country, says Wilf Keller, President and CEO of Ag-West Bio and a member of PIC’s founding board.

It will set up links to the agrifood sectors in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes including the University of Guelph, he said. “We’ve been in communication and see a networking system being set up.” The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute and the Agriculture Institute of Canada will have roles to play.

It will also want to connections with the other four superclusters that Ottawa is supporting Ontario including Advanced Manufacturing in Ontario, Artificial Intelligence powered Supply Chains in Quebec, Oceans in Atlantic Canada and Digital in British Columbia, he said.

PIC will receive $153 million in federal funding during the next five years to develop the potential of plant-based proteins, Chairman Frank Hart said in a statement.

“This is an exciting opportunity for agricultural across the Prairies and food processors across Canada,” he said. PIC’s work will focus on improvements and opportunities in four areas: crop breeding, crop production value-added processing, and export development.

The original federal announcement said nothing about crop-based agriculture in the rest of the country. One insider blamed the government’s clumsy format for announcing the supercluster winners so it each region of the country won something.

Victoria Berry, spokeswoman for Grain Farmers of Ontario, said, “We haven’t been involved in any discussions on this supercluster so far, so we couldn’t say anything about the potential impact for Ontario grain farmers.

“However, it is really great to see agriculture recognized as a sector that is innovative, relevant and growing, and we hope to see great advancements for agriculture in Canada as a whole come out of this new program,” she said.

Serge Buy, CEO of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, said he was confident the research PIC will oversee will have benefits for farmers across the country. The superclusters are intended to produce national benefits. I’m sure PIC will have a real positive impact.”

Cam Dahl, President of Cereals Canada, said, PIC should produce benefits for crop growers and livestock producers farmers across the country. “It should result in national benefits.”

Hart said global population growth trends indicate a need for 59 per cent to 98 per cent more crop protein by 2050.

“Plant based protein is a $13 billion market of which Canada currently has a minimal share,” he said. “We need to seize this opportunity before our competitors do,” said Hart.

The federal contribution will supplement the nearly $400 million PIC has secured in cash, in-kind commitments and venture capital support from its members, he said.

PIC’s activities should generate more than “$700 million in new commercial activity and billions in incremental GDP over the next decade together with approximately 4700 new jobs. This has huge implications for the western Canadian economy.

“Farmers, service companies, value added processors, academic institutions, consumers and through spinoff benefits, everyone on the Prairies and throughout Canada will stand to benefit,” Hart said.

A study by the Canada West Foundation found a rising global demand for more and higher quality protein from a booming global middle class present a huge opportunity.

The demand for more meat internationally will generate a need for higher quality plant protein-based animal feed. “As farmed fish production takes off, we can also now provide new forms of plant based protein aquafeed.

“If Canada moves quickly to position itself as a global leader in the research, development, production and processing of plant protein ingredients, we win,” the Foundation said.

Crop breeding, agricultural crop production, and processing of food and food ingredients will be part of the group’s mandate, along with exporting the proteins around the world.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.


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