Over the decades there have been significant shifts in agriculture at the farm level.
Most have been tied to production, the move from horses to tractors, the move to zero-till farming, the use of global positioning technologies.
But there has also been shifts in what is grown.
Some of those shifts are based on better varieties, rust resistance in wheat as an example.
But others have been because markets evolve. Canola has become king in terms of Prairie crops because of demand for its unique oil.
Pulse crops have grown in terms of acres planted because new markets are being developed for Canadian products.
It is likely the farm sector is on the verge of another significant change, this one because a new market is merging that will likely become a major one moving forward.
The new market that is emerging, and quite likely is going to grow significantly, is for plant-based protein, which is then turned into products such as the successfully marketed Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.
With hamburger chains jumping on the meatless burger train interest in products that mimic the taste of meat, and offer the protein too, are drawing attention. These products were initially thought of largely as an alternative for vegetarians, but is clearly finding fans beyond those on strict vegetable diets.
We are now seeing dollars invested in infrastructure to meet the growing demand for plant protein.
For example, the federal government recently announced $90 million to the Merit Functional Foods plant protein plant in Winnipeg. The money, a package of loans from Agriculture Canada, Farm Credit Canada and Export Development Canada, was announced June 22, by federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
The Merit plant will use proprietary technology to extract canola and pea protein for human consumption.
The Merit facility is not the only one being built to produce plant protein. French processor Roquette is building a pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie and other plant protein projects are proceeding both on the Prairies and across North America.
And, in Saskatchewan the government will be supporting the Bridge2Food Virtual 15th Plant-Based Foods and Proteins Summit North America 2020 being held June 22-26.
“Last year, this event was held in Saskatoon, the first time the event was hosted in North America, and it was a big success for the plant-based protein sector and larger agriculture value chain in the province,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said.
Such investments, both research and infrastructure, hint strongly about the potential of a new market for farm crops, and emerging demand from consumers for new foods.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.