Plant protein proposal to share $950 million in federal supercluster funding

A western Canadian group that hopes to expand economic opportunities in the plant protein industry is one of five so-called industry superclusters to receive a share of $950 million in federal funding under the Innovation Superclusters Program. (PDF format)

Protein Industries Canada (PIC) is an industry-led alliance that consists of more than 120 private-sector companies, academic institutions and industry stakeholders across Western Canada.

PIC — also known as the protein supercluster — hopes to expand the potential of plant-based proteins in common agricultural crops such as canola, pulses, grains, hemp, and flax.

The supercluster will receive more than $150 million of federal funding over the next decade for crop breeding, crop production, value-added processing and export development.

The federal contribution will be augmented by another $400 million in cash, in-kind support and venture capital, committed by supercluster participants and supporters.

All told, the initiative is expected to create an estimated 4,700 jobs over the next 10 years, $700 million in new commercial activity and billions in incremental gross domestic product, said PIC.

Other successful projects under the federal superclusters competition include:

• Those involved in ocean-based industries, as well as those from oil and gas and clean energy.

• Artificial intelligence sectors and robotics to develop intelligent supply chains.

• Advanced manufacturing processes.

• Digital technologies aimed at unlocking new potential in sectors such as health care, manufacturing and forestry.

Successful projects were announced Feb. 15 in Ottawa by Navdeep Bains, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

“What is a supercluster? It’s a made-in-Canada Silicon Valley that will create tens of thousands of jobs…,” Bains said.

“It’s about collaboration as well … working together, promoting collaboration, supporting our supply chains and also developing and nurturing skills and knowledge ….”

In Saskatchewan, key proponents of the protein supercluster include Murad Al-Katib, president of AGT Foods and Ingredients, Wilf Keller, a plant geneticist who serves as president and chief executive officer of Ag-West Bio, and dozens of other stakeholders from academia and the private sector.

In a Feb. 15 conference call, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said the protein supercluster’s successful application will have huge implications for the Saskatchewan economy and the western Canadian agriculture and agri-food sectors.

“This is about the enormous value of the plant proteins that our amazing farmers have the ability to produce and how that value can be multiplied and magnified…”

“Proteins are a vital component of the world’s food supply and they’re more in demand with every passing day, and we must be the best in the world at supplying those proteins.”

The Canadian Prairies have already seen huge investments in the plant protein industry, specifically in pea fractionation.

Last year, Verdient Foods Inc. opened a new fractionation plant in Vanscoy, Sask., capable of processing 160,000 tonnes of yellow peas per year.

Roquette, a French ingredient company, is building a pea protein factory in Portage la Prairie, Man., at an estimated cost of $400 million. That facility is expected to process as much as 250,000 tonnes of Canadian peas annually, starting in 2019.

Canadian Protein Innovation, a German-owned company based at Moose Jaw, Sask., recently announced plans to build a $75 million plant capable of processing 100,000 tonnes of peas annually.

And W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions is planning to build a $15 million addition to its processing plant at Bowden, Alta.

All told, these and other proposed investments could boost the domestic market for Canadian peas and pulse crops by 746,000 tonnes annually, industry sources said.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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