Sustainable Protein Production program

Demand for plant-based protein is rising. Increased demand stems from population growth, changing eating habits, environmental stewardship and health benefits.

Over the next 10 years, plant-based protein is expected to contribute more than $4.5 billion dollars to Canada's GDP growth from primary sources like pulses, soybean, canola and hemp. As the world's largest producer and exporter of dry peas and lentils, Canada already counts on plant-based protein for economic activity.

Canadians aren't alone in seeking plant proteins for themselves and their animals' diets. Global demand is surging. Meeting that demand requires that challenges be overcome.

To that end, the NRC's Sustainable Protein Production program has a vision to increase the value of plant-based proteins and their co-products, moving them up the value chain. We collaborate on projects and pursue research to help Canadian industry address existing challenges through sustainable production practices as well as innovations in processing and manufacturing.

This can involve:

  • creating novel approaches to solve challenges that Canadian producers face
  • developing advanced tools and technologies to improve the quality, safety and traceability of made-in-Canada plant protein products
  • modernizing and improving the efficiency of the agri-food system, such as adopting artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to leverage digital technologies and vast data sets
  • innovating to generate opportunities for new products and co-products
  • furthering the sector's processing capabilities and competitiveness

Additionally, we align with the Protein Industries Canada (PIC) cluster and the broader plant-based protein sector. As one aspect of the program, we champion and develop research projects with PIC members and stakeholders all along the value chain. Furthermore, our program's mandate aligns with Government of Canada priorities like climate change (sustainable production), food security (new protein sources), and economic growth (value-added product innovation).


  • Plant-based protein market assessment: an overview of the plant-based protein sector, including production, trends, challenges and opportunities conducted by the Agri-food Innovation Council
  • Plant-based protein asset map: a bilingual, interactive mapping tool to search protein-related organizations in Canada, in collaboration with Agri-food Innovation Council, Bivizio, McGill University and Western Economic Diversification Canada
Collaborate with us

Organizations from across the plant-protein value chain are welcome to express their interest in collaborating with the program. This may include Protein Industry Canada members or stakeholders from industry, academic institutions and other government departments. Potential collaborators should have an interest in development of knowledge, datasets and technology to improve the competitiveness of the plant-based protein sector.

Grant and contribution funding is available through the NRC's National Program Office for eligible collaborators who offer complementary expertise from the academic, public, not‑for‑profit, and private sectors as well as from Indigenous governments and organizations.

Collaboration opportunities

Pair your experts with ours and gain access to our facilities by collaborating on sustainable plant-protein projects that support technology development within these initial priority areas:

Advanced "omics" of seed-related traits

Develop advanced genomic resources and technologies to accelerate the design of next-generation protein crops with increased processability, protein value, and potential utility in value-added products and applications.

  • Generate foundational datasets and predictive analytics capabilities
  • Induce variation to produce a wider set of traits
  • Develop and implement cell technologies for protein crop improvement
  • Identify genome-wide associations between genotypes and heritable protein-related traits

Compositional profiling of the plant-protein-based food system

Develop an integrated platform for mapping and characterizing the composition of the Canadian plant-based food system, from farm to fork, with the goal of improving decision-making that supports product quality, safety and traceability.

  • Establish proof of concept for predictive models that link high-content compositional analysis with attributes of relevance to the industry
  • Study the seed protein matrix and fate of off-flavours during processing
  • Develop chemical markers, standards, certified reference materials and targeted analytical solutions tailored to specific industry needs

Increasing the economic value and sustainability of protein processing

Create a roadmap for increased utilization of pea starch in higher-value products and applications. Assist industry in optimization and implementation of sustainable protein-processing technologies and practices.

  • Conduct compositional and functional characterization of industrial pea-starch feedstocks
  • Enhance the value of pea starches and flours
  • Complete techno-economic assessments of protein and starch
  • Develop and optimize specific solutions to overcome protein processing barriers

Phytobiome of pulse-root-rot diseases

Apply genomic resources and technologies to develop new solutions for controlling Aphanomyces root-rot diseases in pulses.

  • Develop genomic and metabolomic platforms for profiling plant and microbiome traits for protein crops
  • Create microbiome-based biocontrol strategies
  • Identify genetics of host-resistance, including influence of microbiome
Research facilities

The NRC's complementary facilities, platforms and capabilities span the country, including but not limited to:

  • analysis and characterization
  • controlled environment plant-growth facilities
  • small-scale to pilot-scale fermentation and bioprocessing
  • lab-on-a-chip and microfluidics laboratories
  • advanced sensors and diagnostic equipment