Making Canada a global leader in the supply of plant-based foods and ingredients isn’t a goal that will be accomplished by one area of the country alone. It takes a nation-wide effort to succeed in such an endeavour, requiring new collaboration and innovation from companies and researchers from all regions.
The Eastern Canada Oilseed Development Alliance (ECODA) knows this well. The organization has been working to strengthen Eastern Canada’s agriculture sector—oilseeds in particular—since 2009. The recent interest in plant-based protein has only given it more reason to bring companies in its region together for a common purpose.
“We were founded to make sure research in the area is driven by what the market needs. We want to make sure research can help lead to better ROI for companies,” said ECODA Board Chair Rory Francis. “Previously, research was sometimes focused on what researchers and farmers saw as the need, not what the markets needed. We’re of the view that we need to bring together partnerships that can change that.”
ECODA runs on the belief that companies can accomplish more by working together. The organization has successfully run approximately 60 research projects since its launch, including two through Protein Industries Canada’s first round of funding—one to identify regional attributes and assets to capitalize on the potential of plant proteins, and the other to assess the feasibility of a commercial soy flour processing plant in Eastern Canada. While ECODA’s 60 projects have taken place and included partners from the Prairies through to Atlantic Canada, all have been of benefit to Eastern Canada’s agriculture and agrifood sector, and thus Canada as a whole.
While so far these projects have primarily focused on establishing and growing the sector—such as through the development of new crop varieties for the region, or the establishment of new processing facilities—Francis expects future projects will have a slightly wider focus.
“Climate change is both a concern but also an opportunity for new technology,” Francis said. “We hope and expect to continue to work in the area, including microbiome conditions in the soil, breeding tools for varieties that respond to climate pressure, and reduced environmental footprint.”
With unique partnerships that span its growing value chain, Eastern Canada is a region ripe with opportunity for plant-based food, feed and ingredient entrepreneurs. And together with organizations like ECODA, they’ll help strengthen Canada’s plant-based footprint on the global stage.