Groundwork Laid for the “Protein Highway”

A corridor that stretches from the Canadian Prairies to South Dakota is poised to lead the world in plant-based protein production and innovation, with the most secure supply and lowest environmental footprint, say the organizers behind the “Protein Highway” concept.

The initiative was inspired during a meeting hosted by Canadian Governor General David Johnston in Minnesota in April 2015, where he urged universities, government and industry on both sides of the border to work together in developing agriculture technology.

It has quickly moved from the idea stage to the point where a network of industry, government and universities is being set up to drive business, branding and research for protein-rich crops grown in the area from around Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, explains John Oliver of Maple Leaf Bio-Concepts, in the video below.

John Oliver (right) and Kevin Kephart of South Dakota State University wrapping up the launch of the "Protein Highway" in Fargo, ND last week.

John Oliver (right) and Kevin Kephart of South Dakota State University wrapping up the launch of the “Protein Highway” in Fargo, ND last week.

The formal launch for the “Protein Highway” was held at the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference in Fargo, North Dakota last week, featuring some of the businesses that are participating in the project — for example, an aquaculture tech business in South Dakota and a Silicon Valley-based vegetarian food company.

Drawing a parallel to the tech innovation that’s happened in the Silicon Valley, Oliver says the Protein Highway region should be a hub for food and agricultural innovation, and it just happens that many of the companies in the Silicon Valley are turning their attention to food.

“This is an amazing opportunity to link two ends of the future together. The future is definitely going to be, from an agricultural point of view, in trying to fill the protein deficiency in the world,” he explains. “The Silicon Valley is a hotbed of ideas that have been on the high-tech side, but now they’re looking to move into other places.”

“That highway runs both ways. I think it runs from our protein production here to the hotbed of innovation, ideas and money that’s in the Silicon Valley,” he continues.

With construction still in the early stages, Oliver says the next steps will involve developing the brand and figuring out a funding model to promote the concept.

“It’s just amazing the amount of interest,” he says. “I think we’re going to hear a whole lot of people say ‘Yeah, I want to be recognized as being on the Protein Highway, so I’m going to move a plant here.'”

Oliver joined us in Fargo to chat about the Protein Highway concept, including whether US politics is a threat, the potential for aquaculture in the region, and more:

 

Related: Building the “Protein Highway”

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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