Investment aims to boost soybean processing


Protein Industries Canada (PIC) and several collaborators have committed to developing domestic processing for made-in-Canada food-grade soybeans varieties.

Plans for a Canadian soybean processing facility, and an accompanying soybean variety development initiative, were announced in a March 18 media presentation. PIC is contributing $7.3 million to the project, with an additional $20 million being committed by industry partners.

Why it matters: Canada is a major producer of food-grade soybeans, but continues to rely on other countries for processing. Remedying this gap could reduce the importation of finished ingredients and expand the country’s share of the growing plant protein market.

Food-grade soybeans are exported from Ontario in large volumes but not much of it is processed in Ontario.

John Greig

The plant is set to process 25,000 metric tons of food-grade soybeans each year, but where the plant will be built is not yet clear. Because new varieties being developed will be optimized for growing conditions in Ontario, Quebec, and Southern Manitoba’s, however, the three regions are currently shortlisted as potential locations.

Bill Greuel, chief executive officer for PIC, says they hope to have shovels in the ground 18 months from now.

“We hope to be running by end of 2022, which means we will be purchasing the 2022 soybean crop from Canadian growers,” Greuel says. The non-GMO varieties purchased for processing will be those developed in partnership with DJ Hendrick International.

A press release accompanying the media session says the wider partnership will “add increased value across the Canadian agri-food value chain; farmers will receive premiums for growing specialty crops, and food manufacturers will benefit from a local source of plant-based protein ingredients that currently can only be imported.”

Large market share

While pulses and other crops have made inroads, Greuel and representatives of other organizations involved in the collaboration emphasized soybeans continue to dominate the plant protein market with a 90 per cent share.

The plant protein market is expected to grow enormously, as is the need for variety within the market. For this reason, part of the overarching initiative also includes the development of novel soybean-based protein products. As described by Jim Millington, chief executive officer for Canada Protein Ingredients, the “clean, neutral flavour” of soybeans makes them ideal for this purpose.

Semences Prograin, a Canadian value-added food development company, will develop and test new non-GM soybean varieties optimized for Canada’s growing conditions. DJ Hendrick International and Agrocorp Processing will assist in developing, testing and marketing the new end products to international markets. Synthesis Network will be providing marketing strategy and communications services for Canada Protein Ingredients to promote the food ingredients when they become available.

The main players in the new project include:

•                Canada Protein Ingredients – a newly formed plant-based protein company.

•                DJ Hendrick International – focused on international business efforts that deliver opportunities for Canadian innovation.

•                Semences Prograin – Canada’s largest private value-added soybean company.

•                Agrocorp Processing – A Singapore-based, multi-faceted plant protein development and marketing company.

•                Synthesis Network – an Ontario consulting and communications firm specializing in agriculture and food.