Bringing companies together through the Virtual Asia Mission


At this time last year, plans were in place for Protein Industries Canada and a group of its members to travel to Japan, Taiwan and China to meet with potential business partners. Then COVID-19 entered the picture.

“Since those meetings didn’t get to happen … that’s when we decided to do webinars,” Protein Industries Canada Program Coordinator Carson Sinclair said. “Because we didn’t get there, it was seen as ‘We need to continue reaching out,’ and now we see the webinars have just been such great stepping stones in building toward this virtual mission.”

Together, Sinclair, Marketing and Communications Consultant Gabriel Valentini and VP Strategy & Business Development Karra-Lee Gerrits have been working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Trade Commissioner Services in Japan and Taiwan, and provincial governments toward holding the Virtual Asia Mission from Jan. 26 to 28, 2021.

“With everything that happened with COVID, we said, okay, strategically, how do we continue building on the momentum, interest, and connections that are being made, and do it in a way that makes sense in a virtual space?” Gerrits said.

Eliminating the need to travel widens the audience potential, giving more members the opportunity to highlight their businesses and more Japanese companies the opportunity to learn what Canada has to offer. There’s also an increased potential for both sides to determine who they may want to meet with, in order to begin establishing partnerships.

It also creates more opportunity for speakers and presentations. While some details for the program are still being worked out, Gerrits and Sinclair both said they’re looking forward to the strong lineup of presenters that have been confirmed for the event. Valentini, meanwhile, is looking forward to how the event will help build the plant-protein ecosystem.

“We are hoping to plant a seed, and spark interesting conversations between companies that are carried on beyond the event and mature into business opportunities,” he explained.

That said, the virtual mission hasn’t come without its challenges.

“We’re working hard to come up with creative ways for them to engage with one another,” Valentini said. “They can’t just walk up, introduce themselves and hand out business cards.”

A lot of effort is going into making sure the mission is interactive with lots of business-to-business interaction. Gerrits and Valentini have been working on recruiting Canadian businesses interested in working with Japanese and Taiwanese companies, while Valentini and Sinclair have been working with AAFC to set up a platform that allows attendees to share information about their companies with others.

“We’re experimenting with this a little bit, to see how we can best do this,” Gerrits said. “People are being forced to look at business and creating relationships in new ways. It’s brand new territory for all of us. What can we do to make this as much of an experience, like a physical mission would have been, if it had been possible?”

Companies interested in attending the event are encouraged to register by Dec. 11.