It’s been a year since the province announced its new focus on protein; now there will be more hands on the reins.
The province has officially launched its protein consortium; a committee of producers, industry representatives and academics that it hopes will help inform Manitoba’s protein strategy going forward.
Last January, then agriculture minister Ralph Eichler (now the minister of economic development and training) announced the Manitoba Protein Advantage. The strategy set goals around increased processing and production in both animal and plant protein and increased private investment.
The protein consortium would help direct that strategy, Eichler said when it was first announced late in 2019.
The consortium was one of several projects promised at the first Manitoba Protein Summit in September 2019. The same round of announcements included $362,000 for the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie, a competition for new protein products to be held this coming March and participation in the Protein Highway, an initiative connecting the Prairies and U.S. Great Plains region. Manitoba was the first province or state to sign on to the initiative, Eichler said at the time.
The province cut the ribbon on the protein consortium Jan. 21, during Brandon’s Ag Days.
The committee earned a mention during remarks from current Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen.
“We need to make sure that we’re working in sync with the protein (sector), both livestock and plant protein — how we’re going to move forward on that. How do we make the most effect? — and it’s not for government to decide,” Pedersen said. “That’s why we bring people in who are familiar with the protein industry.”
The province says the consortium will advise the minister and their own organizations on how to implement the strategy, create sustainability metrics and ensure that, “stakeholders are accountable for specific actions under the Manitoba Protein Advantage.”
Pedersen said the consortium would, “provide us advice about where we should be in terms of production, in terms of processing, in terms of marketing, in terms of genetics.”
Pedersen used the example of soybean protein, which has historically been lower in Manitoba compared to the longer growing seasons farther south. The issue was in the spotlight last year, when low protein sparked discounts at the elevator.
“How do we encourage the genetics on that to bring up the protein content?” Pedersen said. “The other side of this is any time you process protein, there’s also what we call the co-products, the byproducts. How do we market that?”
The province has announced eight members of the new consortium ranging from producers, farm management specialists, processing and retail representatives, clean technology company representatives, non-profits and scientists.
Two protein companies will get an additional boost in Ag Action Manitoba funding, Pedersen also announced.
Burnbrae Farms of Winnipeg has been granted $183,500 to turn its previously discarded eggshells into additives for both human and livestock consumption.
Portage la Prairie’s Nutri-Pea Ltd. is also slated for $144,000 to “improve its environmental performance and competitiveness,” according to Pedersen.
The company has tagged reduced water and energy use, as well as co-product development.