CEO Bill Greuel's testimony at the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
Good morning Senators.
To the Chair, and the Committee, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to appear in front of you today.
My name is Bill Greuel, and I am the CEO of Protein Industries Canada.
Over the past four years, through the Global Innovation Cluster program, along with the industry, Protein Industries Canada has invested nearly half a billion dollars into R&D related to plant-based food and ingredients.
We have recently entered our second mandate and are continuing to build Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredient sector.
We believe plant-based foods are a sector of the future. Not only for our economy, contributing $25 billion by 2035 and employing upwards of 17,000 Canadians, but also for our health.
We often say that plant-based foods are a solution from our soil.
Plant-based foods contribute to a healthier Canada and healthier Canadians.
We know that an increased consumption of plant-based foods leads to a healthier population, while also helping Canada reach our climate goals.
I have been involved in the agriculture industry my entire life.
I grew up on a farm in Bruno, Saskatchewan and witnessed firsthand the devastation of drought, including the destruction of our soils in 1988.
I also witnessed the drought of 2021 - considered by many to be as dry as ‘88.
However, unlike 1988, we were still able to produce a substantial crop. That was because of Canadian farmers' adoption of innovation - such as zero-till and three-crop rotation of cereals, pulses and oilseeds.
It is largely because of our farmers' adoption of technology, including the introduction of pulses into a crop rotation, that we have been able to restore our soil health and continually produce high-yielding crops year after year.
And while you may not think about soil when choosing lentils for your healthy dinner, maybe you should.
A secure and reliable food supply chain that can feed Canadians and the world, begins with our ability to grow crops.
A healthy Canada and healthy Canadians depend on healthy soil.
Pulses – such as lentils and peas – naturally fix nitrogen, some of which is stored in the soil and used by subsequent crops reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer.
There is an important link between the global demand for protein and soil health.
The construction of the largest pea processing plant in the world at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba is an example of this.
Roquette chose Canada partly because of our ability to grow some of the most sustainable crops in the world. And it all begins with our soil.
To ensure the continued health of our soil we need to continue to invest into areas that support the advancement of Canada’s pulse and plant-based food sector.
To this end, I have four recommendations for the committee to consider:
1) A continued investment into pulse breeding and genomics. As mentioned above, the adoption of pulses has been fundamental in restoring and maintaining our soil’s health.
Canada has been at the forefront of the introduction of new varieties and genetic improvements. We must continue to invest in this area to ensure that our farmers have continued access to the varieties that not only meet the needs of our downstream processors but also provide high returns – while contributing to soil health.
2) An effective Measurement, Reporting and Verification system – or MRV. Over the course of this study, you have heard many times what an effective carbon sink Canadian soils are. And how Canadian agriculture is some of the most sustainable in the world. This is all true.
But to truly quantify – and be able to tell our story – we need a whole value-chain MRV system. This will allow us to truly understand the sustainability of our ingredients.
And more importantly, know where to design and implement meaningful interventions to reduce GHG emissions and to continue to improve soil health.
3) Downstream processing – The global demand for protein is growing at an incredible rate. Canada has a unique opportunity to meet this need – with both animal protein and plant-based protein.
We need to continue our investment into ingredient processing to capture this opportunity. While we are pleased to have large ingredient manufacturers like Ingredion and Roquette here, the reality is that Canada could support several more large-scale ingredient processing facilities. These facilities provide farmers with marketing options and higher profitability for their pulses… leading to more acres and contributing to soil health.
4) Co-product utilization and support for the circular economy: One of the amazing elements of research and innovation is that you never know for sure what you may end up with. Our realization that the co-products of ingredient processing can also be used to contribute to soil health is one example. We co-invested into a project with Lucent Biosciences and AGT Food and Ingredients where the hulls from peas – the co-products of the ingredient processing – are being used as a delivery agent for a zero-waste, micro-nutrient fertilizer and are now being used across the Prairies.
Canada should be proud of our commitment to soil health. But we cannot rely on what we have accomplished in the past to secure our future.
We must continue to invest in and adopt innovation, to not only ensure healthy soils but to also support our economy and a healthy Canada.