We are quickly approaching the two-year anniversary of Protein Industries Canada’s official launch – the date (April 18, 2019), that we officially started selling memberships and accepting Expressions of Interest for our Technology Projects. I remember that day very clearly – to say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement. It was a big step, and one that a lot of people were eager to see. The administration of a large-scale R&D co-investment model was new, not only to Protein Industries Canada, but also to Canada’s fledgling plant-based ecosystem.
Two years later I think we may have exceeded some expectations. I will not say that we got everything right along the way, but we have always tried, and continue to put the client first in everything we do and learn from our mistakes.
We are now at 20 approved Technology Projects and five approved Capacity Building Projects. We have 275 members from coast-to-coast in Canada and internationally. We have committed close to 90 per cent of our initial tranche of funding and are actively working to commit the rest. However, that does not mean the work of Protein Industries Canada is over.
In fact, I may say we are just getting started.
The reality is that the demand for plant-based food, feed and ingredients is only going to continue to grow – with, or without, Canada’s participation.
We expect that by 2035, the meat-alternative market alone will surpass $180 billion CDN.
This is essential work for Canada. If we fail to actively grow Canada’s ingredient and food processing capabilities, we will leave money and jobs on the table. Plant-based food, feed and ingredients must be a critical part of Canada’s agrifood agenda.
The move to more processing here in Canada is key to our competitiveness and our economic recovery.
And while we have come a long way, we still have a lot of work in front of us, and it will not be accomplished in four years. Our ecosystem is young. We still have much work to do to build a critical mass of capital investment and companies, supported by a competitive business environment.
I do think we are on the right track. Our challenge now is to keep the momentum. To continue to attract investment, to innovate, to help grow our existing companies, to build new ones and to invite companies from other jurisdictions to do business here. And most of all, we need to do this in a coordinated and collaborative way. This will require a national approach with support and commitment by many.
Admittedly, I am a risk-adverse individual. I like certainty before deciding or flipping a switch. Like that day almost two years ago when we started the work of Protein Industries Canada. However, in this case, I am certain about the opportunity and what needs to be done to get us there.
I believe our greatest risk is doing nothing. This is not an and/or situation. This is a must-do for Canada.