Research critical to successful protein strategy

Up to $100,000 in federal, provincial funds promised to develop a provincial research strategy

A well-aligned research community is crucial to meet goals set in the Manitoba Protein Advantage strategy, says the person who will helm a provincial research effort.

This will begin by taking stock of what’s already available in the province.

“What we want to try to do is to make sure that we’ve got that framework established so that we understand all of the potential partners that could be available to move the protein research forward,” said James House, head of the University of Manitoba’s Department of Food and Human Nutritional Science.

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On September 25, the governments of Canada and Manitoba announced $100,000 in funding to develop the research strategy and establish a protein research chair.

The move comes as part of the Manitoba Protein Advantage strategy, a provincial plan rolled out last year that aims to increase animal and plant protein production and to position Manitoba as “North America’s protein supplier of choice,” the strategy says.

The strategy will seek to align efforts to identify opportunities and key areas of protein research. This will better enable Manitoba to capitalize on untapped market potential and investment opportunities, the province said.

The project will go forward in two phases, says a provincial backgrounder on the topic.

Phase one will take stock of the “sustainable protein research ecosystem” in Manitoba, including holding a protein research symposium to share findings.

This might include “non-traditional” research partners like culinary institutes and colleges, House added. Research needs to encompass all aspects of sustainability, including economic and social aspects like why consumers choose proteins and their affordability.

“When you have a more holistic definition of sustainability, that opens up the opportunity to introduce new research partnerships,” House said.

There’s also been a lot of evolution in the protein sector, he said, so some research gaps might be filled by industry partners.

The second phase of the strategy will establish a protein research chair at the U of M to provide leadership to protein research in Manitoba.

“As Canadians have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vitally important we support initiatives that will bring about investment and job opportunities throughout our country,” said federal ag minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in a statement. “Our government will continue to support the agriculture and agri-food industry as they are leading our nation on the road to a sustainable and prosperous recovery.”

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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