What a SuperCluster!

No, I am not swearing at you. Or if I were, it would be to express excitement over the new innovation work in Canada. The Government of Canada set out a challenge to have public, private and academic institutions band together to create new innovations to support Canadian growth and jobs. A great example of blended finance, it asked for proposals that would link whole value chains and reach every corner of the country with exciting synergies of expertise.

Basically, imagine trying to create a Silicon Valley virtually. They are calling it a Supercluster. The five winners were just announced in the areas of:

  • The Ocean Supercluster (based in Atlantic Canada) will use innovation to improve competitiveness in Canada’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas, and clean energy;
  • The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec) will make Canada a world-leading exporter by building intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario) will connect Canada’s technology strengths to our manufacturing industry to make us a world manufacturing leader in the economy of tomorrow;
  • The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies) will make Canada a leading source for plant proteins and help feed the world;
  • The Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia) will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in important sectors like healthcare, forestry, and manufacturing.

The investment by the Canadian government of nearly $1 billion will be matched dollar for dollar by the private sector, and is expected to create more than 50,000 middle-class jobs and grow Canada’s economy by $50 billion over the next 10 years.

As always, it a is pleasure to see Canada focusing on the fact that innovation comes in many forms. There were several great proposals in agriculture and food and it was a special thrill to see Protein Industries Canada be selected as one of the final five. Sure, it may seem obvious to many that artificial intelligence and robotics would make the cut, but the decision to support food innovation demonstrates that that area of development is an equally important application of technology. An excellent proposal on precision farming was also shortlisted, and is particularly meritorious because Canadian agriculture has always been driven by innovation from seeding through to the final products delivered to consumers. One particular area where Canadian agriculture certainly needs to innovate is value addition.

We have traditionally shipped raw product out of our country. As a result, we are some of the world’s best at sustainable, efficient production of many raw materials, including grains, oilseeds, and meat. The opportunity stands to take greater advantage of this productive capacity. Protein Industries Canada is aimed at substantially increasing global market share in novel protein (and co-products) fractions, ingredients, food and feed products, and technologies.

This consortium involves everything from farmers to multinationals; academic institutions to food processors; crop breeders to marketing groups. And the focus now is on developing the potential of plant-based proteins from pulses, hemp, oats, wheat, canola flax, and other crops for export to the world.

One of the great things is that this is a pan-western effort spanning Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. There are great opportunities across this country, and it is heartening to see investment that will affect rural areas in particular – something that is too often overlooked around the world.

Recently, our prime minister issued a challenge to Canadian agriculture to grow our annual exports to $75 billion by 2025. This will only come through innovation and new technology. The goal is to move Canada to second place in global agricultural exports and fifth in agri-food exports. Specifically, we want to further promote a new range of plant-derived foods, ingredients and feedstuffs of great quality, thereby commanding market premiums.

Innovation in agriculture is the reason why I devote time to being on the boards of Bioenterprise and Protein Industries Canada. They are organisations fostering change and working collaboratively throughout the value chain.

If you want to learn about all the SuperClusters, start here.

And here if you want to learn more about the Protein Supercluster specifically, read this.

I’ve never been so excited to see a cluster!

Healthy Eating: Saving Yourself and the World

For many years, it was commonly thought that college students and young adults who were just embarking on their own had bad eating habits; in part, this may be true, what with all the late night snack runs and a generally unsteady eating schedule. But with more people listening to the science coming out about healthy food, and with the added bonus of the availability of gyms at an affordable price for those just embarking on their own, these unhealthy trends appear to be on the decline. 

As food trends change, universities are faced with the pressure to adapt their offerings to serve the food students will want to eat. The University of Calgary, as one example, provides options for all diets by providing a variation of meals for its students, while always maintaining separate stations for vegetarian and vegan students. The dining hall also now allows for takeaway food, and the dorm rooms have individual mini fridges and shared microwaves that allow students to take their uneaten food with them and eat at a later time. 

Typically, obesity rates in Canada begin to rise around the age of 20, and these can continue to rise until the age of 65. I don’t believe this timing is any coincidence, given that the age of 20 is when many individuals step out on their own, whether that be moving out of their parents house or moving out of the residence hall. So, what happens when these young adults are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while keeping costs down? I believe the answer is meal planning, a practice in which people plan, and often prepare, the bulk of their meals for the week ahead of time. This growing trend, which is most commonly employed to save time, may actually be reducing both our risk of obesity and our rates of food waste. It is estimated that food waste costs the Canadian economy $31 billion dollars every year. But when people take the time to plan out exactly how much they are going to eat each day, and then only buy the necessary ingredients, the rate of wasted food declines dramatically. 

With the healthy eating revolution upon us, information is key, and now it is more accessible than ever. A 2016 search data survey discovered that internet searches for healthy foods had grown 10 times since 2005. The ease of finding healthy information is celebrated at such events as FitExpo, which brings togethers gyms, dieticians, and healthy restaurants from around the city, giving individuals the opportunity to ask all their questions in one place. There are also many seminars that can aid people in learning to properly meal plan for their lifestyle and their needs. (A quick google search will open up similar opportunities in your city.) By continuing this healthy eating trend we could be on track to be one of the healthiest generations in years, with obesity rates already dropping. Should this movement continue it could add years to our lives, money in our bank accounts, and sustainability to our world. 




Growing Canada's New Field of Dreams

Canada has always been an agricultural powerhouse, but these days it’s not just about selling prairie wheat, P.E.I. potatoes and maple syrup to the world. Now we’re also building bio-cars from ag-based fibres, composites and foams. We’re creating naturally derived pharmaceuticals and functional foods that help fight disease. We’re cutting carbon emissions by finding valuable uses for agricultural wastes, and we’re boosting agricultural productivity in all kinds of ways.

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Outcomes of the Third Session of the UN Environment Assembly

Last year, the third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly took place at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya from 4th to 6th December. This Assembly is the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment, with a dual role to govern the UN Environment Programme and discuss how to address important environmental issues at the bi-annual summit.

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Canada's Agricultural Day 2018

On the occasion of Canada’s 2018 Agriculture Day, which is on February 13th, I want to take time to reflect on some of the incredible work in agriculture that Canadians are accomplishing. It is such a thrill to pause each February 13th and realize that we’ve made incredible progress in just the past year, and that sensation of admiration and optimism is only multiplied when we compare where we are now to where we were five, ten, and fifty years ago. 

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UNITAR-Emerging ag Training Course

Based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and Emerging ag, a training seminar will be presented at UN Headquarters in New York, on 6 March, 2018, to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by agriculture as a sector and by farmers, especially women farmers, to achieve sustainable development. The upcoming 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62) and its focus on rural women makes this initiative most timely and relevant to ongoing efforts to achieve the SDGs, and in particular Goal 2 and Goal 5, highlighting the fact that sustainable agriculture and farmers must be central to policy decisions that affect food security and nutrition. 

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Results from the International Year of Pulses, Two Years Out

The International Year of Pulses (IYP) was declared by the United Nations for 2016 and ended in February 2017. What were the year's legacy outcomes?  The IYP saw the pulse sector band together to conduct an unprecedented worldwide campaign. Today, multiple sources and research results agree:  this very special crop might make an immense difference in a world where the estimated number of undernourished people increased to 815 million in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015.

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Emerging ag January Team Meeting

Twice a year, the entire Emerging team gets together in various parts around the Globe to strategize, plan, and review, and strengthen our team.  We do this because as a global team the time-zone differences often means we cannot all “get together” at once.  We brainstorm, strategize, and take part in training to ensure our clients continue to experience the fantastic level of service they have become so accustomed to. We also find it important because we are wholeheartedly aware that to thrive as a business we have to constantly innovate and expand our ideas. During these retreats, we spend two days getting our project teams to work on client deliverables, brainstorm ideas, and question assumptions. Tons of new ideas are tossed out and whittled down to a few powerful ones that are then implemented.  

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2017 in Review

Happy New Year!

Emerging had a busy, productive, and diverse 2017. Here is a short selection of some of our proudest accomplishments of the past year. 

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GBA4E at UNEA-3; Businesses #BeatPollution

From the 4th to 6th December 2017, The UN Environment Assembly, the world's highest-level decision-making body on the environment, held its 3rd session (UNEA-3) in Nairobi. The Assembly was held under the overarching theme of “Towards a Pollution Free Planet” and passed 11 resolutions, each addressing a specific dimension of pollution. For the first time, a Ministerial Declaration was approved by consensus – this declaration will serve as a global action plan on pollution. View the approved declaration here.

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