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This article was published 15/2/2018 (1113 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A sprawling Prairie-based group is one of five proponents selected from across the country to receive funding from the federal government's $950 million Innovation Superclusters Program, it was announced this morning in Ottawa.
Officially based in Saskatchewan, Protein Industries Canada (PIC) includes more than two dozen Manitoba participants. Its goal is to more fully develop the potential of plant-based proteins from crops such as canola pulses, grains, hemp and flax. PIC’s work will focus on improvements and opportunities in four areas: crop breeding, crop production, value-added processing and export development.
It has already amassed a total of $400 million in cash and in-kind commitments from large and small private-sector companies, universities, research organizations and industry groups including letters of intent and a solid foundation for the creation of a regional venture-capital fund with at least $150 million in initial capital.
Officials say it has yet to be determined how much of the $950 million in federal funding will be allocated to PIC.
The Manitoba contingent includes the Canola Council of Canada, Enns Brothers, Farmers Edge Inc., Richardson International Limited and Sightline Innovation Inc. It was originally part of another submission to the supercluster program called EMILI (Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative) that focused on machine learning applications, particularly in the agricultural industries.
Its subsequent collaboration with the PIC initiative made it a pan-Prairie effort and was seen as helpful in its eventual selection.
Ray Bouchard, the CEO of Enns Brothers and chairman of EMILI, is on the board of directors of PIC.
"I think everyone in the province who has been working on this, including the universities and the province... have all been anxious to see Manitoba benefit from one of these winning superclusters. The efforts we took early on to engage with the protein people from a collaborative perspective has paid off for us," he said.
According to an independent study, the initiative is estimated to generate over $700 million in new commercial activity and billions of dollars in incremental GDP over the next decade together and create approximately 4,700 new jobs.
Frank Hart, chairman of PIC and vice-chair of Regina-based Greystone Managed Investments Inc., said there is a great opportunity for Western Canadian agricultural industries to grab a much bigger share of the $13-billion market for plant-based protein.
"We export a lot of the crop as raw seed basically without processing much of it here," he said. "There is a lot of value in the seed, particularly protein, and there is a growing global demand for plant protein. That is the unique opportunity we have. Canada already has a pretty good reputation as a source for clean, safe food. We want to build on that and make Canada a world leader in that regard."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.