CALGARY, AB – Surging global demand for plant ingredients – used in everything from baby food to high-protein pasta to veggie burgers – has created a major agricultural opportunity to diversify the Prairie economy, according to a new Canada West Foundation report.
The Prairies, already high-volume producers of crops such as lentils, peas and beans, are poised to dominate the non-soy plant ingredient processing sector, according to the report, Sprouted: The plant ingredient opportunity taking root on the Prairies.
Domestic and foreign investors have already noticed our competitive advantages and are investing in the infrastructure to get the sector up and running, said Carlo Dade, director of the Trade & Investment Centre and report co-author with senior policy analyst Naomi Christensen and policy analyst Sarah Pittman.
“This is a real opportunity with a real market that can lead to export growth and diversification on the Prairies. But without a plan, the potential of the plant-based ingredient opportunity will be lost,” he said.
Crops of all kinds can be split into components like protein, fibre and starch. In addition to food and drinks, plant ingredients are increasingly being used in nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, pet food and animal feed, according to the report. They’re also incredibly high in value.
In addition to already growing large volumes of relevant crops, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta also house plant-science and research and development expertise, have good transportation and logistics infrastructure and enjoy preferential access to the largest consumer of plant-based ingredients: the U.S. A small number of plant ingredient facilities are already operating in Prairies. In the last year, new facilities have been announced in each Prairie province, including an international firm picking Portage la Prairie, Man. as its site for what will be the largest pea-protein facility in the world.
A pan-Prairie approach to developing the industry is crucial to helping it reach its full potential, said Christensen.
“Provinces can choose to compete against each other, or they can collaborate and compete against the rest of the world – and win,” said Christensen.
“Western Canada has all of the components to become the dominant player in this market, but to do that, government and industry need to make the opportunity a priority,” said Pittman.
The report recommends that the Prairie provinces:
• Pursue the opportunity as pan-Prairie.
• Establish a regional “one-stop shop” with information and value chain co-ordination.
• Improve access to capital.
That the federal government:
• Protect access to the U.S. market.
• Improve transportation for exporting ingredients.
And that the provinces, federal government and industry:
• Prioritize becoming a major player in the plant-based ingredients sector.
• Continue support for research, particularly commercialization.
• Leverage publicly funded Intellectual Property.