Innovation, investment and partnership to support Canadian farmers on the way to a green recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward a significant risk for Canadians, a risk many of us have not faced previously: the threat of food insecurity. Around the world, we’re seeing many countries and organizations – including right here in Canada – focusing their efforts to ensure a sustainable food value chain helps keep food accessible, affordable, and healthy.
Now, as Canada begins to build back better and work towards a green recovery, let’s examine how sustainable agriculture plays a role in getting us there. According to a recent report by Community Food Centres Canada, one in seven Canadians are experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. With growing concerns around food insecurity and disruptions across the value chain, the Canadian agriculture industry – which employs one in eight Canadians – is focused on innovation, investment and partnerships that support farmers to provide healthy, sustainable, and affordable food on the path towards recovery. This focus will contribute to SDG #2: Zero Hunger.
Within the broad range of crops grown in Canada, one of the most sustainable crops that a farmer can grow, and consumers can purchase, is pulses. Pulses are edible seeds of plants in the legume family which include a variety of products such as dried peas, lentils, beans, and chickpeas. Pulse crops require less fertilizer to grow resulting in an overall lower carbon footprint and helps to improve soil health while reducing water usage. According to Pulse Canada, Canadian pulses have grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry and the fifth largest crop after wheat, canola, corn and barley. As a result, Canada is the world leader in pulse trade, supplying over 130 markets around the world.
There is a rising trend in pulse products in diets around the world, namely for its many health benefits, particularly with plant protein products. Canada has traditionally been an exporter of pulses but as a result of this increase in North American demand, there is a unique opportunity to establish the market and increase domestic processing capacity to further expand the industry, support the economy and promote healthy and affordable diets, directly contributing to SDG #3: Good health and well being
However, there are still major production challenges that could be addressed through innovative end-to-end solutions requiring a three-pronged collaborative approach between government, public and private partners, and most importantly, farmers.
For years, large companies have focused their research and development on large global crops. Increasingly, however, companies are focusing on growing minor crops such as pulses with the goal to help farmers on the ground, using technological solutions and working with government and strategic partners to ensure it’s regulated, safe, and sustainable.
The partnership of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) and BASF, one of the longest-standing public-private partnerships in Canadian agriculture, is the perfect example of this. BASF’s investments in CDC have enabled a range of new crop-breeding innovations, as well as the advancement of a world-class breeding facility at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. This 25-year partnership has resulted in research and development of crop genetics, facility enhancements, and the commercialization of new pulse and wheat varieties for Canadian farmers. This has played a vital role in enabling economic returns for farmers and the agriculture industry in western Canada and contributes to SDG #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Working together with partners and collaborating across the industry is a nonnegotiable for BASF as COVID-19 exposes the fragility of our food systems due to disruption in supply chains and economic hardships. Farmers have always been stewards of the land where sustainability has been at the forefront of their practices, which includes conserving water, reducing waste and preserving their land for future generations to continue to feed our society.
Authored: Andrea McConnell, Pulse & Cereal Market Manager, BASF Canada