Showcasing the potential of Canada’s full plant-based value chain, companies from across the sector have partnered to develop new artificial intelligence technology that is expected to improve the quality of Canada’s protein crops and ingredients. With the support of Protein Industries Canada, project partners Enns Bros., Crop Sentry, DL Seeds and AGT Foods will develop the technology to meet the needs of farmers and ingredient processors alike.

“Projects like this one show how Canadians are harnessing the power of AI to address complex issues and deliver real impact across Canada,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “Through the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Protein Industries Canada is working with partners to more sustainably produce high-quality plant-based ingredients and products to meet the increasing demand for eco-friendly and nutritious food options both at home and abroad.”

Building on the IoT sensor system previously developed by Crop Sentry, the partners will optimize in-field sensors for pea and canola crops to autonomously gather phenotype data throughout the growing season. This in-field data-gathering will help farmers better collect measurements related to crop quality, leading to improved data-driven decisions that will have positive ripple effects up the value chain.

“Canada’s food and ingredient sectors are evolving, and with this evolution comes a need for new technology—including technology that utilizes the vast potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “By focusing their initial efforts on in-field AI technology, our project partners are building on the established success of Canada’s agriculture industry to help add value and increase the sustainability of our plant-based value chain. This approach will bring benefit to Canada’s farmers, as well as beyond to our ingredient processors and Canadian families.”

With the improved crop quality, ingredient processors will have a more consistent supply of protein to work with, helping them to develop a steady supply of high-quality, highly functional ingredients that will aid consumer-packaged goods manufacturers in developing new food and beverage products. The technology will also aid in traceability efforts related to sustainability, in-field management practices and allergen concerns, meeting the evolving needs of consumers across Canada and abroad.

The end result will mean improved products for consumers to enjoy, while strengthening Canada’s supply chain and economy.

“We are excited to be a part of this partnership," Enns Brothers President and CEO Ray Bouchard said. "We believe it is critical that front line producers are a key component of the value chain, and that technology can be deployed at scale, providing a strong value proposition for growers."

“We are thrilled to have this group of partners share our vision, and to have their vote of confidence in the advanced technologies we are developing,” Crop Sentry Chief Strategy Officer David Hodge said. "Their expertise is invaluable, as we continue our important work to empower growers with the advanced technologies they need to achieve their productivity and sustainability goals.”

“This partnership is an excellent opportunity to bring the whole value chain together in developing new tools that add value to the development, production and processing of new pea products. New varieties form a foundation of our plant-based value chain and DL Seeds is very excited to participate to see how these new tools can help unlock new insights in plant development and how genetics and management can improve quality for producers and processors,” DL Seeds General Manager Chris Anderson said.

“Technology is becoming an increasingly more important component in so many sectors and agriculture is no exception. Data is critical to provide the information needed so that we can make higher quality products right across the agriculture value chain. This starts in the field, with data driven decisions to improve the quality and sustainability of the crops we grow, enabling processors like AGT Foods to manufacture even better products for consumers and the markets we service. We believe utilizing technologies like AI, such as those being developed and introduced through this partnership, will be a significant driver for the agriculture sector,” said Murad Al-Katib, President and CEO of AGT Foods.

The project is the first to be announced under Protein Industries Canada’s artificial intelligence stream. A total of $13 million has been invested in the project, with Protein Industries Canada committing approximately $5.9 million and the partners together committing the remainder. Protein Industries Canada’s artificial intelligence stream is funded as part of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, through which the Government of Canada is investing in efforts to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence across Canada's economy and society.

Throughout its first tranche of funding, Protein Industries Canada and its industry partners invested more than $460 million into growing Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredient sector through 55 technology and capacity building projects. The organization’s artificial intelligence stream is expected to complement these projects by helping companies across the ecosystem incorporate AI and ML technology into their work, optimizing their processes and making them more sustainable while improving the functionality, taste and nutrition profiles of Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients.