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The province is kicking in more than $919,000 and industry partners are investing more than $700,000 towards the project.
Duguid said producers will be able to work with staff at the development centre to create protein products that taste and look good out of peas, lentils and other crops before they make a large capital investment in production equipment.
“Right now there’s really no place for them to go with their ideas, with their products,” said Duguid. “What they do now is they ship their their peas, lentils and chickpeas abroad.”
He said turning those inputs into different meatless foods and products make them more valuable when they’re sold on domestic and foreign markets.
Meatless products have risen in popularity in recent years with the emergence of the Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat brand. That company currently produces and sells plant-based burgers and sausages sold at a number of fast-food restaurants and supermarkets.
Health Canada recommends people eat protein that comes from plant “more often,” as it can provide more fibre and less fat than other sources of protein.
While emphasizing the continued importance of Alberta beef products, Duguid said the federal government wants to help Canadian producers, specifically in Alberta, stay ahead of the curve as meatless products continue to grow in popularity.
“I think there’s never been a more important time to continue to maintain our food supply, to invest in our food supply and this of course is going to create jobs,” said Duguid. “It’s not only a good investment now but it is preparing us for the future, because this trend of the population increasing their consumption of plant protein is here to stay.”
The new equipment is expected to be procured and installed by spring 2022 and fully operational by summer 2023, said press secretary Alexander Cohen.