Protein Industries Canada (PIC) has announced a new project that will develop crop varieties to meet demand for plant-based proteins using novel artificial intelligence (AI) and data trust tools.

A partnership between Sightline Innovation, DL Seeds, and SeedNet, will utilize lead-edge AI and data trust tools to optimize current plant breeding processes. The objective of the partnership is to develop yellow pea varieties that combine high yield potential and high protein content.

The project will receive $3.5 million in funding, $1.75 million each from the group of companies and from PIC.

“This new project is a great example of how Canada’s Protein Supercluster is bringing together both regional and international expertise,” says Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “Combining advanced technology like artificial intelligence and a collaborative effort between three SMEs, this project will result in a new pea variety that offers more diverse choices to meet the growing demand for plant-based ingredients and foods.”

To begin developing the new varieties, DL Seeds will introduce yellow pea parent lines from Europe, which will be adapted to Canada’s growing conditions by using a multi-party breeding program and proprietary datasets. Algorithms provided by Sightline Innovation will be used to streamline the process. These algorithms have been successfully used to analyze human health genomics. Then, SeedNet — an experienced industry group made up of 12 certified seed growers — will market and distribute the new products across Western Canada.

“Investing in collaborative initiatives that drive innovation and competitiveness to the Canadian plant-protein sector is our mission, and this is yet another great project in which we see that mission materialized,” says Bill Greuel, CEO of PIC. “Integrating advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning is a unique growth opportunity for the agri-food sector. Developing crops with a higher protein content and better yield potential brings value across the entire value chain, improving the competitiveness of our crops and generating more returns for farmers and processors across Canada.”

The novel AI and data trust platform could also be used to breed new varieties of other crops and expanded to sectors outside of agri-food states a press release. The technology could generate opportunities for intellectual property licensing, even across other Canadian superclusters.

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