Investment to improve Canadian agriculture sector’s data use

Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Project to build the capacity of the Canadian agrifood sector to use data, creating benefits along the value chain

July 20, 2021 — Today, Protein Industries Canada announced a co-investment in a project that will improve data use within Canada’s agriculture and agrifood sector. The project is led by the Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI) in collaboration with the Alberta Data Institute (ADI), a program under Alberta Innovates, as well as a number of other participating organizations.

The EMILI Data Initiative addresses data literacy knowledge gaps and works to better understand important issues arising from the increasing use of data in the agrifood sector, such as data ownership, standardization and privacy. This will lead to a number of direct and indirect benefits, including a better understanding of the current challenges and opportunities related to the use of data-intensive technologies, stronger trust and transparency related to data use, and the building of a culture of data governance and stewardship across the value chain.

“Data offers Canada’s agrifood sector great opportunities for sustainable growth,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “With support from the Protein Industries Supercluster, EMILI and its partners will offer unique insight and benefits all across the value chain, from farm to fork.”

“Data is essential in driving innovation in the Canadian agriculture and agrifood industry. This project is a great example of how better coordination and cooperation will position Canada as a world leader in the global plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem. This partnership will strengthen our agricultural production and lead to a more sustainable future,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food.

The project will focus on four areas: using hands-on technology demonstration to explore the ability to share data along the value chain; researching data ownership, data privacy, and interoperability and standards for agrifood data; developing data literacy training programs for producers, technologists and others working along the food value chain; and creating an advisory working group to provide oversight and direction for next steps. Each area will advance the project’s overall goal of strengthening the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector’s data ecosystem.

“Improving the way our sector uses data will go a long way toward helping satisfy consumer demands,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “With the right data systems in place, consumers will be able to trace their food from farm to fork—including its positive sustainability story. This project will help bring us closer to where the sector needs to be to make that a reality.”

To deliver this ambitious project, EMILI will work in collaboration with a number of external organizations, including the following:

  • Assiniboine Community College;
  • The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN);
  • Enns Brothers;
  • Farm Credit Canada (FCC);
  • G3;
  • The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN);
  • Merit Functional Foods;
  • Pulse Canada; and
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic

A total of $903,000 is being invested into the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing $438,000 and the project participants together investing $465,000.

“The successful integration of intelligent technologies into Canadian agriculture and food will depend on the effective stewardship of agrifood data,” EMILI Board Chair Ray Bouchard said. “To make sure that digital tools create value for everyone along the value chain we need to develop a solid understanding of privacy, ownership and security issues, the best business models, as well as the opportunities presented by standardization. This is especially critical for growers and small- and medium-sized businesses who must be full partners in the digital transformation of our sector. EMILI is excited to lead this foundational project that will build a culture of data governance and sustain trust in data and digital tools across the agrifood value chain.”

“Alberta Innovates is keen to support the digitalization of the agriculture sector,” Alberta Innovates VP of Health Innovation Tim Murphy said. “Alberta Innovates’ Alberta Data Institute is pleased to partner on this data focused initiative — improving data capabilities will be a key differentiator empowering novel business models and addressing current gaps, which will enhance the competitiveness of Canada’s plant based agri-food sector.”

“At Merit we are continually looking at ways to work with our grower partners to create efficient and traceable supply chains,” Merit Functional Foods VP of Operations Dan Kraft said. “Merit’s customers are demanding that we can trace our pea and canola protein products back to the farm where they were grown. We look forward to working with the project EMILI team to identify ways we can leverage data in the plant protein supply chain to create value for everyone.”

This marks Protein Industries Canada’s 23rd project announcement, including their third Capacity Building project announcement. Together with industry, they’ve invested more than $377 million into Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector. They’re currently accepting Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for both their Technology and Capacity Building projects.

This media release is also available on the Protein Industries Canada website.