Manitoba's protein summit unveils bright future for plant protein sector

Companies and stakeholders from all different areas around Manitoba came together last week for the province’s inaugural Protein Summit.

“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,” says Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler. According to a news release, the goal of the one-day conference was to gain new insight into protein opportunities.

“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.”

(Manitoba Agriculture/Twitter)

Attendee’s got their hands on the newly released, and first-of-its-kind, sustainable protein strategy, called the Manitoba Protein Advantage. The strategy outlines a focus on future efforts and to encourage leadership and industry collaboration to make Manitoba North America’s protein supplier of choice, according to Eichler.

Manitoba Agriculture held 77 individual meetings with more than 300 participants and received more than two dozen written submissions that helped developed it.

While at the summit, it was announced the Food Development Centre (FDC) will be receiving $362,000 to support protein sector innovation and commercialization as part of the strategy. The money will be put toward equipment that will accelerate the pace of protein ingredient development and further position the FDC as a leading protein innovation centre.

“Since 2016, Manitoba has attracted over $1.5 billion in agri-food investments,” Eichler added. “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.”

It was also announced that the minister has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to become part of the Protein Highway, a cross-border network for plant-based protein innovation. According to the government website, the partnership will mean 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.

Other key priorities in the strategy plan include attracting new investments 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.

According to a news release, 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.

Challenge and consortium revealed

As a way to attract others to get thinking about innovations surrounding protein, the Manitoba Protein Product Challenge was unveiled. It’s 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 of next year on Farm and Food Awareness Day.

In addition to the challenge, the province will be coming up with a protein development consortium, which will co-ordinate industry, academic, and government efforts in protein industry development and alignment on strategic projects.

To read the full protein strategy, click here.

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