Un­leash­ing the Po­ten­tial of Cana­dian Crops: Pro­tein In­dus­tries Canada

Policy - - In This Issue - Frank Hart

It’s a mea­sure of the evo­lu­tion of agri­cul­ture in Canada that the in­dus­try’s su­per­clus­ter does not con­tain the words “agri­cul­ture” or “farm­ing” in its ti­tle. Pro­tein In­dus­tries Canada, as CEO Frank Hart writes, will con­sol­i­date and har­ness the tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion that is al­ready rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing agri­cul­ture to take Canada to the next level of global com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Pro­tein In­dus­tries Canada (PIC) is an in­dus­try-led su­per­clus­ter com­prised of lead­ing Cana­dian agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy cor­po­ra­tions, food and food in­gre­di­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers, agri­cul­ture and food ser­vice com­pa­nies, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment agen­cies, and highly ex­pe­ri­enced aca­demic and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. This su­per­clus­ter is unique in its fo­cus to cap­i­tal­ize on Canada’s world- class strengths in agri­cul­tural and food tech­nol­ogy to advance eco­nomic

growth through in­no­va­tion in the area of plant-based pro­teins and co-prod­ucts.

The global pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to reach 8.5 bil­lion by 2030 and 9.7 bil­lion by 2050. An in­creas­ingly af­flu­ent global middle class (ap­prox­i­mately three bil­lion peo­ple world­wide in 2015) is seek­ing higher qual­ity foods. Global middle class con­sump­tion is grow­ing at 4 per cent an­nu­ally in real terms and cre­at­ing an in­creased de­mand for plant­based pro­tein. As an ex­ist­ing leader in agri­cul­ture and food pro­cess­ing, Canada has an op­por­tu­nity to lead this new growth cy­cle and tech­nol­ogy era by se­cur­ing our po­si­tion and rep­u­ta­tion as a pi­o­neer in agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The vi­sion of PIC is “to po­si­tion Canada glob­ally as a lead­ing source of high-qual­ity plant pro­tein and plant­based co-prod­ucts, while sub­stan­tially con­tribut­ing to Canada’s eco­nomic growth and in­ter­na­tional trade bal­ance.” The mis­sion is “to mo­bi­lize Canada’s ag/food in­no­va­tion to col­lab­o­rate in sup­port of in­dus­try driven mar­ket pri­or­i­ties and needs.”

In order to achieve our Vi­sion, PIC in­tends to:

Build a shared com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage that will at­tract cut­ting-edge re­search, in­vest­ment and tal­ent by ad­dress­ing gaps, align­ing strengths, en­hanc­ing at­tributes, and po­si­tion­ing it as a world-lead­ing in­no­va­tion hub;

Global middle class con­sump­tion is grow­ing at 4 per cent an­nu­ally in real terms and cre­at­ing an in­creased de­mand for plant-based pro­tein. As an ex­ist­ing leader in agri­cul­ture and food pro­cess­ing, Canada has an op­por­tu­nity to lead this new growth cy­cle.

• In­crease busi­ness ex­pen­di­tures on R&D and advance a range of busi­ness-led in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy lead­er­ship ac­tiv­i­ties that will ad­dress pro­tein sec­tor chal­lenges, and boost pro­duc­tiv­ity, per­for­mance and com­pet­i­tive­ness for Canada’s agri-food sec­tor;

Gen­er­ate new com­pa­nies and com­mer­cial­ize new prod­ucts, pro­cesses and ser­vices that po­si­tion firms to scale, in­te­grat­ing into global value chains, tran­si­tion­ing to high-value ac­tiv­i­ties and be­com­ing a global mar­ket leader in plant-based pro­tein and co-prod­ucts; and

Foster a crit­i­cal mass of growth-ori­ented firms and bol­ster col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween pri­vate, aca­demic and public­sec­tor or­ga­ni­za­tions pur­su­ing pri­vate-sec­tor led in­no­va­tion and com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­hance the PIC’s pool of re­sources, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and knowl­edge. PIC’s pro­posed value chain ap­proach of en­hanc­ing pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing in­no­va­tion, im­prov­ing ex­port and mar­ket de­vel­op­ment, and scal­ing the ag busi­ness sec­tor to com­pete on the world stage is de­signed grow the Cana­dian econ­omy, cre­ate jobs, and re­duce our car­bon foot­print through in­creased car­bon se­ques­tra­tion. Cana­dian re­gen­er­a­tive agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy can lead the world.

The PIC pro­posal is built around four fun­da­men­tal pil­lars, (1) cre­ation of high-qual­ity pro­tein germplasm, (2) smart pro­duc­tion, (3) novel process tech­nol­ogy and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, and (4) com­pany sup­port, mar­ket­ing and com­mer­cial­iza­tion. These four pil­lars will each have a sep­a­rate pro­gram to fo­cus re­sources to­gether with fund­ing for ecosys­tem de­vel­op­ment and tech­ni­cal train­ing.

A key to this su­per­clus­ter pro­posal is the ap­pli­ca­tion of new tech­nol­ogy in ge­nomics, phe­no­typ­ing, pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, data man­age­ment, and ed­u­ca­tion to drive for­ward in­no­va­tion and cat­alyze new in­dus­try growth ini­tially re­lated to pro­tein and co­prod­ucts and grow­ing as the clus­ter ex­pands. Our fo­cus will be on fos­ter­ing novel ap­proaches to pro­cess­ing ex­ist­ing ma­jor acreage crops (canola, pulses and wheat) as well as cre­at­ing frac­tions with in­creased com­mer­cial value and util­ity for both the hu­man food and an­i­mal feed mar­kets. A sec­ond phase of PIC projects will be di­rected to smaller acreage crops with sig­nif­i­cant growth po­ten­tial in­clud­ing hemp, quinoa, flax, oats, and oth­ers. The new pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies will pro­vide valu­able starches, flours, car­bo­hy­drates and com­pounds for biopoly­mers, tex­tiles, in­dus­trial oils, func­tional foods, an­i­mal feeds, medicines and per­sonal care prod­ucts. The PIC clus­ter in­tends to build on estab­lished lo­cal strengths in crop pro­duc­tion, ap­pli­ca­tion of emerg­ing dig­i­tal/pre­ci­sion crop pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies and pri­vate and pub­lic seed pro­cess­ing and food/feed for­mu­la­tion re­search to in­crease value-added co-prod­uct pro­duc­tion with con­comi­tant in­creases in ex­ports, jobs and rev­enue.

Fi­nally, new in­ter­na­tional mar­kets are grow­ing with de­mand for new plant pro­tein sup­plies which must be ad­dressed through value-added pro­cess­ing. Canada has an estab­lished in­ter­na­tional brand for qual­ity in­gre­di­ents which will be en­hanced by pro­vid­ing new in­gre­di­ent prod­ucts for new mar­kets. The PIC clus­ter aims to have all of the nec­es­sary com­po­nents to par­tic­i­pate in these new mar­kets. ISED in­vest­ment will al­low PIC, its mem­bers and part­ners to ac­cel­er­ate the process of in­nova-

tion and cre­ate new link­ages lead­ing to col­lab­o­ra­tions. The PIC clus­ter is ge­o­graph­i­cally cen­tered in the three Prairie Prov­inces but will have nodes and partnerships through­out Canada. Western Canada is the cen­ter of canola, pulse, ce­real and spe­cialty crop pro­duc­tion (hemp, flax, sun­flower, mus­tard, quinoa, etc.) and has de­vel­oped as­so­ci­ated pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries and trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture. As an ex­am­ple, the scale and know-how of Cana­dian canola and pulse crop pro­duc­tion can­not be du­pli­cated in other coun­tries. How­ever, an agri­cul­ture-based clus­ter can­not be as phys­i­cally con­cen­trated as other types of clus­ters be­cause of the na­ture of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and re­search. But many of the PIC mem­bers have fa­cil­i­ties cen­tered near Saska­toon, Regina, Ed­mon­ton, Cal­gary, Leth­bridge and Winnipeg.

The im­por­tance of the type of link­ages that PIC will fa­cil­i­tate has long been stressed by pro­po­nents of suc­cess­ful clus­ters. For a knowl­edge-based clus­ter, the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween in­dus­try and academia is vi­tal. In­dus­try re­quires ac­cess to the re­search re­sults, and academia needs ac­cess to a pow­er­ful in­dus­trial cus­tomer base. As tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment is at the core of com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, an im­por­tant as­pect of PIC is to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to joint de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies, cre­at­ing stronger science bases and com­mer­cial de­ploy­ment.

For a knowl­edge­based clus­ter, the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween in­dus­try and academia is vi­tal. In­dus­try re­quires ac­cess to the re­search re­sults, and academia needs ac­cess to a pow­er­ful in­dus­trial cus­tomer base.

PIC also hopes to foster the de­vel­op­ment of start-up or emerg­ing com­pa­nies that may be phys­i­cally lo­cated in prox­im­ity to shared fa­cil­i­ties or ser­vices. Suc­cess­ful clus­ters are also well-funded and able to sup­port emerg­ing firms through ac­cess­ing funds, match­ing in­vest­ment, and in some in­stances, of­fer­ing ven­ture funds to as­sist com­pa­nies. Com­pa­nies that are de­vel­op­ing new in­no­va­tions, and novel plant pro­teins and co-prod­ucts will re­quire ac­cess to fi­nan­cial capital and ex­per­tise to pur­sue scaled-up com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties. PIC is also work­ing with a series of com­pa­nies to cre­ate link­ages be­tween its mem­bers and a $150 mil­lion ven­ture capital fund op­er­ated by ex­pe­ri­enced fi­nan­cial operators. PIC’s Western Cana­dian clus­ter is also ideally sit­u­ated to ex­port Cana­di­ans goods to mar­ket, thereby en­hanc­ing Cana­dian ex­port growth and as­so­ci­ated eco­nomic im­pacts. With Port Al­berta, the Cal­gary Re­gion In­land Port, the Global Trans­porta­tion Hub, and Cen­tre Port, four of Canada’s nine For­eign Trade Zone points are lo­cated in the heart of the ma­jor canola, pulse, hemp, and oat grow­ing ar­eas in Canada. As such, these re­gions are per­fectly suited for the at­trac­tion and re­ten­tion of im­port/ex­port trad­ing com­pa­nies and pro­ces­sors look­ing to ac­cess na­tional, North Amer­i­can, and over­seas global mar­kets.

An­other key as­pect of the clus­ter will be a fo­cus on ma­chine learn­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence as im­por­tant en­able­ment tech­nolo­gies. In­tel­li­gent tech­nolo­gies are chang­ing and dis­rupt­ing ev­ery sec­tor of the econ­omy faster than we can keep up us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods. The su­per­clus­ter pro­gram and this in­vest­ment in in­no­va­tion is ex­actly what is needed to ap­ply these tech­nolo­gies for the suc­cess and ex­pan­sion of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and the en­tire econ­omy. As part of this fo­cus, PIC will be part­ner­ing with col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to help shape cur­ricu­lum that matches the needs of in­dus­try. These new es­sen­tial skills won’t just help the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try to­day; they will be de­manded by jobs that are yet to be cre­ated and are trans­fer­able to other sec­tors and other in­dus­tries.

As we pro­ceed in set up our en­tity, we are mind­ful that our su­per­clus­ter will be the most ef­fec­tive, most im­pact­ful and have the great­est suc­cess if we in­clude, learn from and make space for a di­verse range of peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ences. We are work­ing to in­sure the in­clu­sion of women, Indige­nous peo­ple and un­der­rep­re­sented groups, at ev­ery crit­i­cal junc­ture of the im­ple­men­ta­tion process: at the board level, in project fund­ing and in the gen­eral clus­ter-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties of PIC.

For the last 150 years, Canada has been known as a leader in agri­cul­ture. We pro­duce some of the world’s safest, high qual­ity food. For the next 150 years, we have an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue and grow our legacy as a leader in agri­cul­tural in­no­va­tion. The Prairies are the heart of Cana­dian agri­cul­ture and well po­si­tioned to be the ge­o­graphic ge­n­e­sis of this in­no­va­tion.

Adobe­stock photo

The Pro­tein In­dus­tries Canada su­per­clus­ter will cap­i­tal­ize on Western Canada’s sta­tus as the cen­tre of canola, pulse, ce­real and spe­cialty crop pro­duc­tion to take Canada’s progress in agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy to a whole new level.

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