Trudeau announces $90 million in financing for Manitoba pea and canola protein plant

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $90 million in government financing — mostly loans — for the Merit Functional Foods plant protein facility that’s being built at Winnipeg, Man. as part of his morning address on Monday (June 22).

Merit Functional Foods is building a commercial-scale protein extraction plant that will process peas and canola into food-grade protein for human consumption in baked goods, meat and egg alternatives, and other food products.

“We are extremely appreciative of the instrumental support from the government and our other partners as we move one step closer to commercializing our state-of-the-art protein manufacturing facility. We’re proud to help elevate Canada as one of the world’s leaders in plant-based protein and sustainable food,” notes Ryan Bracken, co-CEO at Merit Functional Foods, in a release.

The federal announcement includes financing from four federal programs/agencies:

  • $10 million in a repayable contribution from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriInnovate Program;
  • $25 million in debt financing from Farm Credit Canada (FCC);
  • $55 million in debt financing from Export Development Canada; and
  • $9.2 million from the Protein Industries Canada supercluster.

While it was billed as a nearly $100 million announcement by the prime minister, not all of it is “new” money. The $9.2 million from the Protein Industries Canada supercluster was originally announced in January 2020. Burcon NutraScience Corporation — the main partner in Merit — also announced it had secured $85 million in financing from FCC and Export Development Canada, along with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, for the project last month.

The 94-thousand square foot Merit plant in Winnipeg’s Centreport is slated to open in December 2020, employing around 80 people. Originally billed as a $65 million facility, the company says the estimated cost of the plant has grown to $150 million in conjunction with rapidly growing demand.

The company expects to purchase 10,000 metric tonnes of yellow peas and 17,000 tonnes of canola seed in its first year. A multi-phase plan for the facility would see demand grow to over 100 thousand tonnes annually.

Merit Functional Foods was established in 2019 as a joint venture between Burcon NutraScience Corporation and several food industry executives. Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement with Nestle to develop and commercialize novel plant protein ingredients for use in Nestle’s plant-based foods and beverages.

Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect new estimated cost of the Merit project in Winnipeg.

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