On Wednesday, Protein Industries Canada announced an investment into a project to develop a national strategy to improve diversity and inclusion of Indigenous groups in the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector.
Led by Indigenous Works, the project is part of the organization’s Luminary Initiative, a six-year program created to advance Indigenous-led research and innovation that will transform economies, generate employment and improve wellbeing of Indigenous groups in Canada. The Luminary Initiative brings together a consortium of more than 140 organizations from the Indigenous research and business communities to discuss and co-create Indigenous innovation strategies for a variety of sectors.
In addition to the Luminary consortium, Indigenous Works has joined forces with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina, partners who will provide research support and strategic guidance throughout the project. From an industry standpoint, Nutrien has committed as a presenting sponsor in addition to providing in-kind support as a leader in innovative and sustainable agronomic practices. Farm Credit Canada will also support the initiative, joined by other companies in the sector that wish to contribute to the discussion. Half of the $500,000 project will be funded by Protein Industries Canada. The remaining half will be contributed by Nutrien, along with other public funding programs..
“Indigenous involvement is absolutely essential in our collective efforts to develop more innovative and sustainable practices and technologies in Canadian agriculture. We are excited by the role Indigenous Works will play in further engaging Indigenous groups in the agriculture sector,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food.
The consortium will map the current state of Indigenous participation in the agrifood sector identifying ways of increasing the following:
• Collaborations between post-secondary researchers and Indigenous businesses;
• Research knowledge mobilizations and new product/service innovations; and
• Employment and business development.
"The inclusion of Indigenous communities and other under-represented populations is vital in creating economic growth for Canada, especially in times of COVID economic recovery," added Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel. "This project will impact our sector for years to come, creating job opportunities and business growth for Indigenous peoples across Canada, and addressing concerns such as food safety and sovereignty."
Canada’s current COVID scenario has brought attention to pre-existing highly important issues of food security and food sovereignty among Indigenous communities and businesses. While Indigenous people have a long history of agricultural activity among many communities, engagement in the modern commercial side of the agriculture and agrifood sector is still considered rudimentary.
“Indigenous people want to expand their national and global businesses in ways which bring economic prosperity, jobs and well-being to their communities, and this will help all Canadians,” said Indigenous Works President and CEO Kelly Lendsay. “By advancing an innovation culture with Indigenous businesses and communities, and growing the collaborations among researchers, research agencies and Indigenous business, we can develop new products, new service lines, new innovative approaches and solutions that are good for all Canadians and the Canadian economy.”
The finalized strategy will be used by the plant-based food, feed and ingredient ecosystem to create programs, policies and initiatives to address identified gaps and improve diversity and inclusion of Indigenous people.