June 22, 2021

Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan Invest in Pulse Starch Research

Today, Canada's Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau and Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit announced $2.5 million in funding for research led by the University of Saskatchewan into new opportunities for starches from pulse crops.

"With Prairie farmers producing such a large percentage of Canada's pulse crop, the opportunities to process these crops and create new, higher-value products closer to home are enormous," said Bibeau.  "Investments like this will stimulate further growth in the pulse and processing industries and will have long-term impacts on job growth in the sector."

"Today's investment will stimulate further development and growth in the Saskatchewan pulse and value-added industries by identifying new ways to process pulse starch," Marit said.  "This research will bring us closer to a number of the goals outlined in Saskatchewan's Plan for Growth.  These include our targets to process 50 per cent of Saskatchewan pulse crops in the province and increase value-added agriculture revenue to $10 billion."

The $2.5 million in funding through Saskatchewan's Strategic Research Initiative has been awarded to Dr. Yongfeng Ai at the University of Saskatchewan.

Pulse crops like beans, lentils, and peas contain starch.  Starch has several uses, including as an ingredient in a variety of food products.  The research team aims to advance the ability to separate starch from the seed, and further understand what is required to convert pulse starches into value-added products.

"This project will build the university's reputation as a leading research institution, working to highlight Canada's innovation ecosystem on the global stage," USask Vice-President Research Baljit Singh said.  "Dr. Ai's work demonstrates the clear potential for development of value-added pulse products to industry and the public at large."

The pulse industry has expressed a strong interest in this research work, with InfraReady Products, C-Merak Foods, P&H Milling Group, and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers partnering on the project.

"A major component of our market development strategy is to diversify markets and end-uses for pulses," Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Executive Director Carl Potts said.  "In order to further expand value-added processing of pulses in Saskatchewan, there needs to be strong demand for all co-products of pulse processing.  In particular, we need more high value markets that can utilize starch in volume."

The Strategic Research Initiative is part of a suite of research and demonstration programs funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3 billion investment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada's agri-food and agri-products sectors.  This commitment includes $2 billion for programs cost-shared by the federal and provincial/territorial governments that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.  More than $155 million of this funding comes from the Government of Saskatchewan.