Sask. wins federal bid that would help Canada become the world leader in supplying plant-based proteins

Protein Industries Canada was among the five winners of the federal government's Innovation Superclusters Initiative and will be privy to a portion of a $950-million fund to bolster innovation in Canada.

Protein Industries Canada is made up of industry, academic and agriculture entities across the Prairies

PIC, a Saskatchewan-based technology 'supercluster,' will look to turn Prairie-grown crops like hemp, canola, flax and pulses into even denser protein-laden products. (Shutterstock)

A Saskatchewan-based group will be receiving as much as $150 million or more from the federal government for agriculture innovation.

Protein Industries Canada, which includes businesses and organizations across the Prairies, will receive money from the federal government's Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

More than 50 "superclusters" applied to receive a portion of the $950 million in federal funding and five winners, including PIC, were announced Thursday. Each will receive between $150 to 250 million, with an exact amount yet to be determined.

A press release from the federal government described superclusters as "dense areas of business activity where many of the middle-class jobs of today and tomorrow are created."

The clusters "attract large and small companies that collaborate with universities, colleges and not-for-profit organizations to turn ideas into solutions that can be brought to market."

In the case of PIC, that means 120 businesses, a handful of academic institutions and interested groups across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba which have formed a consortium and will work together to improve agriculture in the region.

The money will be doled out over five years to the winners, which will have to match the federal funding they receive, dollar for dollar.

At a time of increasing unpredictability in our next-door neighbour, this is exactly the emphasis on homegrown excellence, skill, talent, brain power and capacity in which Canada needs to invest.- MP Ralph Goodale

PIC will be focused on developing more efficient plant-based proteins from crops grown in the Prairies.

Crop breeding, agricultural crop production, and processing of food and food ingredients will be part of the group's mandate, along with exporting the proteins around the world.

Ralph Goodale, MP for Regina-Wascana and the federal minister of public safety, said PIC could bring 4,500 jobs and increase GDP in the Prairies by $4.5 billion in the coming decade.

"At a time of increasing unpredictability in our next-door neighbour, this is exactly the emphasis on homegrown excellence, skill, talent, brain power and capacity in which Canada needs to invest," said Goodale.

PIC's emphasis on improving protein production from crops relates to the growing demand and need for protein-rich nutrients the world over. As a winner in the supercluster competition, Goodale said PIC could establish itself as a global leader in the field.

"[As] the standards of living increase around the world there is greater and greater and greater demand for protein," Goodale said.

"Therefore, this is a growing global market in which Canada and Saskatchewan and the West have a natural advantage."

With files from The Canadian Press