Plant protein finds federal funds

An extra $90 million in federal government money is flowing into the Merit Functional Foods plant protein facility in Winnipeg.

It’s a show of support for agricultural science and innovation, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said June 22.

“We are creating a new domestic market for our farmers, we are investing in science and innovation and we are positioning ourselves (for) a very promising international market,” she said.

The money is a package of loans from Agriculture Canada, Farm Credit Canada and Export Development Canada.

EDC is providing the biggest portion, at $55 million, highlighting the export-orientation for much of Merit’s planned production.

“Having EDC as a partner is a demonstration of the potential that these type of products will have in the international market,” Bibeau said.

“They know what and where the demand is, and where we can find reliable and trusted clients as well.”

FCC is lending $25 million and $10 million is a “repayable contribution” from Agriculture Canada’s AgriInnovate program.

Protein Industries Canada, the federally funded protein supercluster organization, has contributed $9.2 million to the project.

The Merit plant will use proprietary technology to extract canola and pea protein for human consumption. Some of the company’s founders have long worked in the plant protein area, although much of the technology that will be used in the Winnipeg operation will need to be developed.

Plant protein demand has surged in recent years, with the huge popularity of the Beyond Meat Burger and Impossible Burger.

French processor Roquette is building a huge pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie and other plant protein projects are proceeding both on the Prairies and across North America.

In a statement, Merit co-chief executive officer Ryan Bracken said the new money will help his company and the country get into the fast-developing sector.

“We’re proud to help elevate Canada as one of the world’s leaders in plant-based protein and sustainable food,” said Bracken.

EDC said the plant’s “clean technology” made it attractive to the agency.

The government announcement refers to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s support of plant-based foods for “reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems and improving health outcomes.”

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