For the second time this week, the pulse industry is in the spotlight as another research and development project gets the green light.
This latest project, funded through the protein supercluster Protein Industries Canada (PIC), is a joint research and development initiative between Saskatchewan-based AGT Food and Ingredients and ulivit, a consumer-facing ingredients start up, led by Laura Gustafson.
The project will receive $11.3 million to further research and development into pea, lentil, and faba bean protein concentrates, to be used for meat alternatives, textured pulse protein, tempeh, pasta, dairy alternatives and other consumer- and restaurant-facing products.
Bill Greuel, of Protein Industries Canada, says that this project moves PIC funding further up the value chain. Existing projects look at plant breeding, production-level research and more, and now this moves projects into consumer products and commercialization as well.
Greuel says that the partnering of these organizations works really well, as AGT has the processing experience and capacity, and farmer and product access, with retail and distribution assets. This will allow ulivit, a small start-up, to scale and grow as they never could on their own, and accelerate that growth potential, he says.
Protein Industries Canada is currently working at committing the entire $300 million it has been allocated as the federal supercluster. Right now, Greuel says that about $100 million has already been announced and funded, but there are also projects approved but not announced yet, as that does take time. There are also projects still in the development pipeline that will get approved. Currently, PIC is in its third call for proposals, and this will likely be the last call for the current pot of funding. There is likely still $30 million in tech projects to be committed, he says.
And, then what? Greuel says that the aim is to commit the full tech budget by end of 2020, which will bring PIC two-thirds of the way into its mandate. After that, he says, the focus will shift to the capacity side, IP, and more, plus devoting some time and energy to moving some projects along.
There’s also a roadmap for project evaluation and measuring success of what has already been committed. Greuel says it’s important to look forward, not just backwards, and assessing if the cluster is achieving what it set out to achieve. What’s more, as an industry, it’s key that plans are drawn out on a longer-term horizon to prepare for future demand and to make sure that long-term projects, such as plant breeding, are developing in line with that growth.