Offering an Ideal ‘Launchpad’ to the Agri-Food Innovation Ecosystem: Pre-Summit Interview with Greg Eidsness, Managing Director of the Saskatchewan Singapore Office
Ahead of the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit this month, we caught up with Greg Eidsness about building new partnerships with Saskatchewan’s agri-food innovation ecosystem and how to leverage Canadian products and innovation in addressing the pressing need for nutritious and sustainable food.
Why should Asian agri-food companies be interested in Saskatchewan, Canada?
In Singapore and across Asia, food start-ups and major agri-food companies are developing innovative plant-based protein products. Most of these products use a base ingredient, such as soy, peas, beans, mushrooms, or wheat gluten. Canada, and Saskatchewan in particular, is a major producer of many of these ingredients. For example, Saskatchewan is the world’s largest exporter of dried peas, lentils, canola, oats and flax. For this reason alone, Saskatchewan should be on the radar of Asian plant-based food companies.
Beyond sourcing ingredients, Asian companies looking to create market leading products need to develop novel formulations. This is an area of science where Saskatchewan is a leader. This expertise is based on decades of world leading crop science and food product research and development infrastructures. This deep history of plant protein research and product development has created a unique ecosystem that bridges public and private organizations. Now more than ever, this industry is welcoming new partners from around the world to develop the next generation of products to feed the world.
Finally, rapidly growing Asian food companies need to consider expansion into North America, which remains the largest market in the world for plant-based protein products. Saskatchewan offers an ideal ‘launchpad’ with competitive taxes, a central location, and a variety of programs and incentives for growing companies. There are also programs available for entrepreneurs looking to immigrate to Canada as part of their business expansion.
We are so convinced by the opportunity to connect Asian companies to Saskatchewan that Saskatchewan has established a network of trade and investment offices across Asia. These offices are located in Singapore, India, Vietnam, Japan, China and the United Arab Emirates with a specific mandate to work with Asian companies on identifying business and partnership opportunities.
What supports and programs are available for Asian companies in particular?
Saskatchewan’s incredible natural resources are backed by an R&D and commercialization system that has grown alongside its agricultural industry over more than a century. In recent years, this ecosystem has benefited from the Government of Canada’s focus on alternative proteins, demonstrated by the establishment of Protein Industries Canada (PIC), one of five Global Innovation Clusters. Since 2017, PIC, which is headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan, and industry partners have invested more than SGD $500 million into Canada’s plant-based food sector. For innovative Asian agri-food companies, PIC can provide a platform to identify Canadian partners to advance cutting-edge projects in Canada’s plant-protein industry.
For Asian companies interested in developing, testing or validating new plant-based products, a key partner to know is the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre. The Food Centre is recognized globally as a leader in converting plant-based protein through new product development, ingredient validation and extrusion technology. The Food Centre’s twin screw extrusion technology is capable of transforming a wide variety of agricultural crops into innovative consumer food products such as snack foods, breakfast cereal, pet foods, meat analogues and bio-products. Since inception, the Food Centre has developed over 1,000 new products with an estimated 50% introduced into the market. This expertise and capacity is why companies such as AGT Food and Ingredients, Agrocorp, and Ingredion have chosen to develop and process plant protein products in Saskatchewan.
Asian agri-food companies and start-ups should also get to know the Global Agri-Food Advancement Partnership (GAAP). GAAP, which is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was created to drive innovation in Canada’s agriculture and food sectors, providing a soft landing for companies looking to gain access to the North American market. GAAP is a privately run and operated agri-food investment incubator looking for cutting-edge technologies from early and rapid-growth companies seeking to improve efficiency, sustainability and profitability within the global agriculture and food sector. GAAP targets companies working on promising, disruptive technologies in the early stages of development (post proof of concept) with application in agriculture, food, or food processing. GAAP also works with established international clients looking to grow a presence in Canada. It will allow companies to access the North American marketplace with lower entry costs, reduced capital expenditure, tailored concierge services, and an expedited path to market.
There are many other partners, programs and incentives available to Asian agri-food companies, and the Saskatchewan Singapore Office is available to work one-on-one with them to identify which is the best fit based on their stage and requirements.
Why is the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit an important date in your diary? Who are you hoping to connect with in Singapore?
The summit provides an ideal platform to connect with companies from across Asia and the world. The event’s focus on agri-food innovation is a perfect match with our mandate to meet leading food companies and start-ups and to begin the conversation on how Canada could and should fit into their plans.
I would encourage any companies participating in the summit to reach out to me and we can find an opportunity to meet in person. Of course, I also invite you to attend our Saskatchewan Brunch Briefing, taking place at the summit on October 28th at 11:25 am. You will have an opportunity to hear from Dr. Steven Webb of the Global Institute for Food Security on the opportunity to leverage Canadian products and innovation in addressing the pressing need for nutritious and sustainable food.
The Government of Saskatchewan is a country partner of the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit 2022. They will host the brunch briefing ‘Building New Partnerships with Canada’s Agrifood Innovation Powerhouse,’ on Friday, October 28. See the full agenda here.