Saskatchewan and the protein highway
As a result of a unique, federally created economic innovation initiative, Saskatchewan is positioned to be key player in the global food industry of the future.
Our province is seeing the evolution of an innovative and potentially game changing new approach to expanding our economy, involving government, industry and academia...and it's all focused around food, and more specifically plant protein.
In the spring of 2017, as part of an effort to expand the Canadian economy, the federal government launched the Innovation Superclusters Initiative. The program focused on creating teams of participants and investors from government, community, academia and industry.
It allocated $950 million for industry-led projects that proposed to: accelerate Canada's global advantage in highly innovative industries, such as agri-food; increase economic growth; and create jobs in a wide range of industries. It also required $400 million in cash, in-kind support, and/or venture capital, from the supercluster participants and supporters.
The intent of the federal government's Innovation Supercluster Initiative was to inspire business to take a leadership role in creating long-term social and economic value in the country. The initiative was intended to create more than 50,000 middle-class jobs and create $50 billion in Canadian economic growth over the next 10 years.
Once the program was launched, industry-led alliances were invited to submit potential projects.
Because Saskatchewan is recognized worldwide for the quality of lentils, dried peas, and chickpea crop, the collaborative team from Saskatchewan submitted a response that proposed investing in, and expanding the plant protein industry in this province, across Canada, and globally. In essence, the proposal focused on developing more efficient plan-based proteins from crops grown in priaries, and on using these new proteins to further develop a plant protein industry across western Canada.
The Protein Industries Canada (PIC) team, is made up of more than 120 private-sector companies, academics and industry stakeholders from Western Canada. Participants ranged from regional economic development authorities such as Economic Development Regina Inc, to industry facilitators such as ISM Canada, to industry leaders including Murad Al Katib's AGT foods, which has played a major role in developing this industry over the past 18 years, and Ag-West Bio's CEO Wilf Keller, who was the driving force behind the development of the PIC response.
It speaks to the strength of the Saskatchewan submission that the PIC proposal was one of just five proposals selected to receive a portion of the $950 million out of more than 1,000 submissions from across the country.
In all the PIC Supercluster is expected to create approximately 4,700 jobs over the next 10 years, drive $700 million in new commercial activity and billions more in incremental gross domestic product.
"Saskatchewan is now positioned to be a leader in the development of the protein highway of the future, setting the stage for innovative new growth in industries and organizations across this province and the prairies."
Interest in the plant protein sector has grown significantly over the last number of years, as evidenced by the fact that even non-typical investors are moving into this sector. Canadian and Hollywood movie director James Cameron and his wife Susie Amis Cameron's company Verdient Foods Inc. recently opened a pea processing plant in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan.
Similary a German-owned company Canadian Protein Innovation, based out of Moose Jaw, Sask., recently announced plans to build a $75 million plant capable of processing 100,000 tonnes of peas annually.
The potential for the PIC initiative cannot be underestimated. Among Saskatchewan's many advantages in the world of plant protein, is our province's ability to create strong partnerships between researchers, industry, producers and government, which will play a significant role in adding value to crops produced here.
An official launch of the Protein Industry Canada supercluster recently pointed out that agriculture is seeing some dramatic changes; and developments in big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and related technologies are alerting traditional practices in the agri-food sector.
The Supercluster initiative has brought together more than 100 non-traditional partners to collaborate on enhancing production and processing, improving export and market development, and helping to position Saskatchewan as a leader in the plant protein industry. These partners include:
- AGT Food and Ingredients;
- Botaneco Inc.;
- Conexus Credit Union;
- Dot Technology Corp. and SeedMaster Mfg.;
- Enns Brothers;
- Farmers Edge Inc.;
- ISM Canada;
- Maple Leaf Foods Inc.;
- POS Bio-Sciences;
- Roquette Agri-Food Canada;
- Sightline Innovation Inc.; and
- University of Saskatchewan.
ISM's expertise in the areas of big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and business innovation enable us to be important contributors to this exciting and important initiative.
This consortium has the potential to play a significant role in growing both the provincial and federal economies. Saskatchewan is now positioned to be a leader in development of the protein highway of the future, setting the stage for innovative new growth in industries and organizations across this province and the prairies.
Renowned McKinsey & Company management consultant and business executive, and chair of the Canadian minister of finance's Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Dominic Barton has said that Innovation will be critical for Canada's future growth and for the prosperity of all Canadians in the coming decade.
He points to an Advisory Council report which predicts that the middle class will grow by 2.4 billion within 15 years, mainly in Asia and Africa, resulting in an "astronomical" demand for protein. Barton believes this demand will be beyond anything we have ever seen in the history of our country, and he underscores that this is offers a huge opportunity for Canada, upon which we must be ready to capitalize.