The sustainability efforts of Canada’s plant protein sector

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The strength of Canada’s agrifood sector is interwoven with the health of our environment. The sector relies on the environment to help maintain access to high-quality commodities and healthy workers, while also contributing to the environment’s health through increasingly ambitious sustainability goals.

But while ambitious, these goals are both achievable and meaningful. Canada’s ingredient processors and food manufacturers are committed to reducing their environmental footprint, be it through reduced water or energy use, carbon-neutral facilities, or improvements to on-farm practices. All are efforts that align with this year’s Earth Day theme, which is to Restore Our Earth.

The plant-based food sector’s work toward environmental sustainability begins as soon as a farmer plants their crops in the spring. Pulse crops provide particularly significant environmental benefits: their natural ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and atmosphere into a form they can use reduces farmers’ inputs, while the fixed nitrogen they leave behind benefits crops in following rotations. Combined with the use of production practices such as zero-till, the crops are helping Canada’s producers are contributing to Canada’s goal to become carbon neutral.

Protein Industries Canada’s members and project partners are helping take this even further. Of the 17 technology projects we’ve announced so far, 65 per cent are expected to reduce environmental impact.

For example, a partnership between Verge Ag, Coutts Agro, Provision Analytics and Skymatics is aimed at not only tracking sustainable on-farm practices, but helping increase them. Together, the partners are using data and a new software platform to measure statistics such as crop inputs and field passes, then find ways to reduce them.

Precision.ai, Exceed Grain Marketing, Sure Growth Solutions and the Global Institute for Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan have partnered with a similar on-farm goal. These partners are working together to develop new spraying technology that uses artificial intelligence to detect and spray only pests within a field. The technology is expected to reduce crop protection product use, as well as fuel and water use.

GrainFrac, Tomtene Seed Farm and Ripple Foods, meanwhile, are scaling up technology that’s expected to reduce water and energy use related to pulse-based ingredient processing. Developed by the University of Alberta and patented by GrainFrac, this technology is expected extract as much protein as possible from pulses, while reducing environmental impacts.

Many of our members outside of our co-investment partnerships are also working to reduce their environmental footprint. Lovingly Made Ingredients, which recently opened a processing facility in Calgary, Alta., expects this choice to set up in Canada to play a significant role in the size of its environmental footprint. The Lovingly Made Ingredients team anticipates being carbon neutral by the end of 2021, thanks in part to reduced transportation of commodities compared to processing outside of the country.

We’re proud of the efforts these and other Protein Industries Canada members have made to help maintain and improve the health of Canada’s environment. On this year’s Earth Day, we’d like to recognize them for these efforts.

To learn more about Earth Day and this year’s theme of Restore Our Earth, visit the Earth Day website.