Toban Dyck, farmer and writer
MANITOBA’S FARMERS SHOULD be paying attention to Protein Industries Canada. Founded in 2018, Protein Industries Canada has already become the crucible in which ideas, research, and business have come together to put Canada on the global protein map.
In the 2023 winter edition of Pulse Beat, we highlighted the work Hailey Jefferies, owner of Prairie Fava and former Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG) board member, has been doing in partnership with PIC. Private and public dollars came together to create a new market for fava beans. The collaboration between a farmer, two businesses, and Protein Industries Canada is a success story in how industry- supported innovation can tangibly impact Manitoba’s agriculture industry, create and strengthen markets for farmers and, in the end, increase profits.
“Over the past five years, we saw several highly successful pulse projects across Manitoba and Canada, and we look forward to the next five years of continued innovation across the value chain as we work to establish Canada as a global leader in plant-based foods and ingredients,” says Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada. “Upcoming projects will have an emphasis on ingredient processing, and by supporting the scale-up of companies and the commercialization of new products, we believe we are well on our way to have a $25 billion plant-based food and ingredient industry in Canada by 2035. Through this robust plant-based foods sector, producers, consumers and Canadians alike will experience the economic benefits of this innovation, and a more sustainable and green Canada.”
This and other initiatives are part of Protein Industry Canada’s ambitious plan to elevate Canada’s plant-based food, feed, and ingredient sales from about $3 billion, annually, to $25 billion by 2035 – The Road to $25 Billion.
Pete Giesbrecht, owner of Pulse Genetics, a pea breeding company based in Manitoba, has been working with Protein Industries Canada to develop pea varieties that have high enough protein levels to serve as a meat substitute and starch profiles that make the plant better for extrusions.
“We’re part-way down the breeding road,” says Giesbrecht, referring to the completion of phase one of the project. “We’ve had some success, but in a year and a half, there is not enough time to bring a new variety into being.” Giesbrecht, who grew Pulse Genetics
from a hobby garden to an active breeding outfit, is looking ahead and is committed to carrying on with this project – a new yellow pea variety that would be available to Manitoba’s farmers, allowing them to participate in high-value pulse markets.
“The focus for me at Pulse Genetics is the different aspects of protein and protein composition,” says Giesbrecht. “But, a big concern right now is root rots, so I’m looking at expanding into that area of breeding, as well.”
In addition to breeding programs like Giesbrecht’s, industry-led innovation in agriculture also encompasses new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Until March 31, 2026, Protein Industries Canada has committed to investing $30 million into artificial intelligence projects that benefit the plant-based and agri-food sector.
Chris Bunio is the co-founder of TheoryMesh, a Manitoba-based digital platform focused on tracking data and providing traceability in the agri-food supply chain.
“What we want to get to is more forward-looking, predictive capability, particularly being able to look at all the different variables on crop and food nutrition,” said Bunio, in a news release. “One of the theories that I have, and other people maybe have, is that farm practice, farm soil type, and farm applications all affect crop nutrition, and that crop nutrition affects how crops can be turned into protein products and other food products.”
Industry-supported innovation is key to a thriving ag industry. Manitoba’s farmers and business owners are discovering ways to diversify their operations, whether through processing or the adoption
of new technologies and processes. Stories like these are testament to how organizations can work together with farmers and other agricultural innovators to enhance ideas, increase funding, and take things from concept to market.