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Manitoba embraces protein possibilities at first protein summit

September 23, 2019  By Top Crop Manager

The Manitoba government held the Manitoba Protein Summit, a gathering of crop and livestock industry leaders, processors, academics, government and other stakeholders brought together to gain new insight into protein opportunities.

“Plant-protein demand is increasing at more than six per cent per year, with world demand expected to double by 2029, and animal-protein demand expected to double by 2050,” said Ralph Eichler, provincial agricultural minister, in a news release. “Historically, Manitoba has always been strong in protein production. However, by gathering here today, we are discussing additional opportunities that will make sure we can reap economic benefits through expanding livestock and plant-protein production and processing.”

At the summit, the province released its sustainable protein strategy, called the Manitoba Protein Advantage. This strategy will focus future efforts and encourage leadership and industry collaboration to make Manitoba North America’s protein supplier of choice, the minister said.


Planning a protein strategy

Earlier this year, the Manitoba government consulted with industry stakeholders to develop the new strategy. Manitoba held 77 individual meetings with more than 300 participants and received more than two dozen written submissions that helped develop the new strategy.

Key priorities of the strategy include attracting new investment and jobs in plant- and animal-protein processing, growing the hog industry to meet current processing capabilities, seeking opportunities to grow beef and other animal-protein production to meet market opportunities, and positioning Manitoba as a leading research and development centre in North America for plant-protein extraction technology.

The strategy also has a focus on innovation while continuing to produce sustainable protein, including facilitating research to reduce greenhouse gases from animal-protein production by 15 per cent per kilogram of protein produced, as well as reduced water usage, energy use, and waste in production and processing.

“Since 2016, Manitoba has attracted over $1.5 billion in agri-food investments,” said Eichler. “The strategy will maintain the Manitoba government’s focus on creating an environment for investment attraction while supporting research and innovation, and reducing red tape.”

Part of these investments include the announcement of a $400-million pea protein processing facility by French company Roquette in Portage la Prairie, Man. and a $65-million pea and canola protein processing facility near Winnipeg. The pea and canola protein processing facility is being built by Merit Functional Foods Corporation, a 60-40 joint venture between an investor group (60 per cent ownership) and Burcon Nutrascience Corp (Burcon Foods) (40 per cent ownership). Both plants are expected to be up and running by the end of 2020.

Key investments

As part of the strategy, the Food Development Centre (FDC) will be receiving $362,000 to support protein sector innovation and commercialization. This investment in equipment will accelerate the pace of protein ingredient development.

The summit also marked the minister signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to become part of the “Protein Highway,” a cross-border network for plant-based protein innovation. Through the partnership, Manitoba will become part of an innovation network to increase collaboration opportunities for Manitoba researchers and companies across the Prairie provinces and U.S. Midwest and Great Plains regions. The MOU will establish and continue collaborative activities between the parties related to research, innovation and commercialization projects.

Also announced at the Manitoba Protein Summit was the creation of the Manitoba Protein Product Challenge, a competition that will bring together protein entrepreneurs to accelerate commercialization of plant- and animal-protein products. The first challenge will take place in March 2020 on Farm and Food Awareness Day.

Manitoba will also be developing a Manitoba Protein Development Consortium, which will co-ordinate industry, academic, and government efforts in protein industry development and alignment on strategic projects, said the minister.


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