Protein Industries Canada Invests In The Development Of New High-Protein Crop Varieties


oday, Protein Industries Canada announced a new project that will develop crop varieties to help meet the fast-growing market demand for plant-based proteins.

The partnership, composed of Sightline Innovation, DL Seeds and SeedNet, will utilize leading-edge artificial intelligence (AI) and data trust tools to optimize current plant breeding processes. Their objective is to develop yellow pea varieties that combine high-yield potential and high-protein content, a composition long awaited by farmers and processors in the plant-protein ecosystem.

The project will receive a total of $3.5 million in investments: $1.75 million from the group of companies and $1.75 million from Protein Industries Canada. This is the 10th project announced by the Supercluster.

“This new project is a great example of how Canada’s Protein Supercluster is bringing together both regional and international expertise. Combining advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and a collaborative effort between three SMEs, this project will result in a new pea variety that offers more diverse choices to meet the growing demand for plant-based ingredients and foods,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

To develop the new varieties, DL Seeds will introduce unique yellow pea parent lines from Europe, which will be adapted to Canada’s growing conditions by utilizing a multi-party breeding program and proprietary datasets. The process will be streamlined by a wide range of algorithms provided by Sightline Innovation, including proprietary frameworks that were successfully used in the analysis of human health genomics. SeedNet, an experienced industry group composed of 12 certified seed growers, will market and distribute the new products across Western Canada.

The group’s synergy is characteristic of Protein Industries Canada’s projects.

“Investing in collaborative initiatives that drive innovation and competitiveness to the Canadian plant-protein sector is our mission, and this is yet another great project in which we see that mission materialized,” CEO of Protein Industries Canada Bill Greuel said. “Integrating advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning is a unique growth opportunity for the agri-food sector. Developing crops with a higher protein content and better yield potential brings value across the entire value chain, improving the competitiveness of our crops and generating more returns for farmers and processors across Canada.”

Sightline Innovation’s novel AI and data trust platform can also be used to breed new varieties of other crops and expanded to sectors outside of agri-food, generating opportunities for intellectual property (IP) licensing, even across other Canadian superclusters.

“We’re grateful to be part of Protein Industries Canada’s mission to build a value-added ecosystem around plant-based protein, and to help enhance the economic output of Canada’s agriculture sector,” Sightline Innovation’s CEO Wallace Trenholm said. “With data being a key innovation driver, it’s exciting to be able to provide enterprise data collaboration infrastructures on this project, and to help modernize the food supply chain. The data trust technology we’ll provide will create monetizable data that can be recognized as financial assets, providing return on investment to stakeholders, from growers to consumers.”

“Our team at DL Seeds is inspired to be working with Sightline and SeedNet in creating the next generation of high-performing, high-protein yellow field pea varieties with the generous support of PIC,” Senior Agronomist and North American Pulse Research Manager at DL Seeds Glen Hawkins said. “We are just at the forefront of discovering how A.I.-generated data from this project could help accelerate plant breeding and be used as a tool to select superior genetics for the Western Canadian farm.”.

“SeedNet didn’t hesitate to get involved with this project because of the high-quality partners with whom we will be working. As well, it was easy to recognize the potential benefit of this project to our network of seed and commercial growers in the prairie provinces once the varieties have been developed.” President of SeedNet Ryan Mercer said.

In less than two years, Protein Industries Canada, along with industry partners, has co-invested approximately $163 million into the Canadian plant-protein sector. The Supercluster is currently accepting Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for research and capacity building projects as part of their third open call.