How Canada can produce extra meals and fewer emissions

How Canada can produce extra meals and fewer emissions

Defining the time period and making a system to measure, report and confirm (MRV) the carbon saved in soil attributable to regenerative agriculture (and the ecosystem providers supplied), would empower shopper selections. An MRV instrument would additionally make it simpler to connect a worth to practices and result in a market the place carbon credit may be purchased and offered. Some pilot initiatives are underway to create “carbon farms” that embrace makes an attempt to construct correct MRV techniques. Different initiatives are experimenting with superior mathematical fashions that estimate how totally different farm administration methods might sequester carbon.

No matter system is established might want to deal with myriad regional variations in soil varieties throughout the nation, in addition to limitations associated to farming sort and dimension. Making a nationwide MRV accounting instrument can even require a much wider system for soil testing than Canada presently has. Expertise, and specifically the development of distant soil sensors, shall be essential enablers of those techniques.

Solutions to those questions and others—together with how you can regulate future carbon markets—will take time to come back collectively. Till then, we’ll want to seek out methods to incentivize farmers utilizing the very best instruments we’ve, whereas constantly adopting higher ones as they come up.

“We couldn’t produce with out cowl crops. Loopy storms used to wipe out our crops. Not anymore.”

Gillian Flies, Proprietor, The New Farm

How Canada can produce extra meals and fewer emissions

Key problem: Cattle digestion produces 24MT of emissions
With out change: Emissions will rise to 30MT by 2050
Sport changers: Feed components, GHG selective breeding
The potential: To scale back emissions by 21MT by 2050

Cow burps and manure might not instantly spring to thoughts once we take into consideration local weather change. However Canada’s dairy and beef cattle are the largest sources of agricultural emissions after fertilizer. By means of their digestion course of or “enteric fermentation”, cattle produce methane, a potent greenhouse gasoline with a 20 yr world warming potential 85 instances that of carbon dioxide.18 And in Canada, the place the agricultural sector accounts for 30% of nationwide methane emissions, 85% may be immediately attributed to cattle.19

The paradox is that cattle also can act as stewards of the land. Canada has about 35 million acres of native grassland and 9 million acres of seeded grasslands that act as carbon sinks. By grazing on this land, cattle stimulate grass roots to develop deeper, higher enabling carbon to be saved within the soil. Utilizing land for grazing additionally prevents it from being transformed to different makes use of, which impacts biodiversity and disturbs carbon within the soil.

Including to the complexity, Canadian beef has one of many smallest carbon footprints globally, with greenhouse gasoline emissions nicely under the worldwide common. That makes us a essential beef provider because the world appears to chop emissions. Our dairy cattle too, emit fewer GHGs per kilogram of ultimate product than the worldwide common.

Nonetheless, the outsized contribution of cattle to local weather change means extra have to be executed. Researchers are engaged on breeding strategies that might produce cattle that launch much less methane and that course of feed extra effectively. Feed components that lower the quantity of methane produced throughout digestion might provide a extra speedy breakthrough for the sector. One such additive, known as 3NOP, is already in use in different nations—it has but to be authorized in Canada—and has been proven to chop emissions by as a lot as 45%.20 Including seaweed to the eating regimen of dairy cows might additionally lower emissions by as a lot as 82% whereas additionally bettering the effectivity of cattle—that’s, serving to them develop extra utilizing much less feed.21

The problem: Feed is the costliest and most crucial enter on a beef or dairy farm and questions stay about how a lot components will price amid robust worldwide demand. A extra sensible concern is how you can administer the components to beef cattle that spend a lot of their lives grazing in open fields (the place essentially the most emissions are launched).

“Feed components are a tough promote. As we’ve discovered working with veterinarians and feedlot operators, principally there’s no incentive…And finally we’re relying on the unknown: the adoption of the farmer.”

Elena Vinco, Researcher and Coverage Analyst, The Simpson Centre for Meals and Agricultural Coverage

Key problem: Manure produces 8MT of emissions
With out change: Emissions will rise to 10MT by 2050
Sport changer: Anaerobic digesters
The potential: To scale back emissions by 7MT by 2050

Whereas much less potent than cow burps, manure packs a significant punch with regards to emissions. As we speak, 8MT of whole agricultural emissions come from manure. Of this, 55% are generated by cattle.

Walker Farms in Aylmer, southeast of London, Ontario, presents a glimpse at one strategy to deliver these emissions down—whereas including to the farm’s backside line. The dairy operation partnered with Ontario-based DLS Biogas to construct a $16 million anaerobic digester, expertise that turns manure and natural waste into electrical energy or renewable pure gasoline (RNG). Farmers can both use that vitality on the farm, slicing their very own prices, or promote it to pure gasoline utilities like Fortis B.C. beneath long-term contracts. Fortis buys the gasoline and the carbon credit related to it.

Digestate, an odourless byproduct, can in flip be used as fertilizer. Canada presently has 279 biogas initiatives in operation. And with solely 13% of obtainable biogas vitality manufacturing being tapped in Canada, there’s room to develop, with essentially the most vital potential recognized within the agricultural sector.22

The challenges: Anaerobic digesters are gaining traction, largely as a result of additional income they bring about to farms. The Walkers anticipate to see their preliminary funding returned in eight years.

However the upfront price of digesters—operating anyplace from $7 million to $70 million—place them out of attain for smaller operators. The Walkers and DLS Biogas have utilized for a collection of grants (a course of that took a whole bunch of hours to finish) however there are not any ensures and no applications particularly tailor-made to biogas.

And digesters might not make sense for each farm. With at the least 150 cows wanted to supply sufficient manure to feed a digester (Ontario averages 70 to 80 cows per farm), dimension issues. Entry to landfilled meals waste, which can also be added to digesters, and pipelines to maneuver the RNG to market are additionally essential. Massive beef feedlots in Alberta are inclined to have higher entry to this infrastructure and sufficient cattle to make manufacturing economically viable. However the clay floor utilized in many cattle pens can find yourself in manure, damaging biodigester equipment. Many feedlots are changing to curler compacted concrete, which improves cattle effectivity and eliminates the issue of clay within the biogas course of. This, too, is dear.

The event of communal digesters might enable smaller farms to take part within the manufacturing of biogas. However assist to assist cowl the upfront prices—and a streamlined course of to acquire it—shall be essential.

Key problem: 93 MT total
With out change: 137 MT
Sport changers: Superior ag-tech that cuts emissions, permits extra carbon to be saved in soil and results in extra manufacturing on much less land
The potential: To allow 54 MT in potential emissions reductions (or as a lot as 76 MT when soil sequestration is added)

Canada has a protracted historical past of agricultural innovation. The event of Marquis Wheat in 1904 was important to the increase in Prairie crop yields that adopted. Canola, created in Saskatchewan within the Sixties, is now one of many world’s most vital oilseed crops. The grain auger was invented in Canada. And air seeders bearing the brand of Saskatchewan’s Seed Hawk can now be discovered on fields from Australia to Europe.

All of those developments fueled step modifications within the productiveness of Canadian agriculture. The following era of applied sciences might want to do greater than that. Certainly, all the emissions reductions envisioned on this paper will not directly depend on expertise—improvements like CCUS, biodigesters and precision instruments. Expertise can even be essential to producing extra meals on much less land and by extension, avoiding the conversion of land into cropland. Our estimates counsel we are able to keep away from 20MT of emissions by stopping land use change between now and 2050. Storing extra carbon in soil—producing destructive emissions—can even rely on more and more subtle units like soil sensors and drones that allow the market innovation essential to speed up new approaches like regenerative agriculture.

Canada’s heft in world agriculture markets, its longstanding experience in crop science and its newfound energy in synthetic intelligence and knowledge science, place us nicely to steer in some areas of this race. But with regards to drawing non-public funding to homegrown innovation, we’re falling behind. Of roughly US$36 billion in world enterprise capital and personal fairness investments in ag-tech since 2017, Canada acquired simply 3%, or US$1 billion. The U.S. captured US$20 billion or 55% of investments.

Critically, non-public fairness and enterprise capital funding has lagged in a few of the areas which have traditionally reaped the most important rewards for Canadian agriculture. As we glance to decrease emissions, crop genetics and soil science (together with microbiome analysis) maintain a few of the best potential for reinforcing manufacturing on present farmland, slicing carbon emissions and bettering resilience to droughts and flooding. Whereas a lot of our analysis has been centered “above the soil” up to now, scientists are more and more turning their consideration to the potential of root buildings and soil microbiomes to chop emissions. However to this point, non-public funding in these fields hasn’t rushed to Canada. Of whole world non-public fairness and enterprise capital funding of roughly US$10 billion since 2017, our ventures in crop genetics have drawn solely US$82 million.

As well as, a lot of the funding Canada is attracting isn’t going to the sorts of applied sciences we’d like now to transition to a extra sustainable agriculture and meals sector. Globally, over half of personal funding in ag-tech in 2021 was in sustainable practices. However in Canada, most investments are centered on digitization and automation, expertise designed with productiveness, not sustainability, in thoughts.

As we work to deploy these options as we speak we’ll additionally must preserve an eye fixed to the longer term, investing in earlier stage applied sciences that may assist us adapt our meals techniques to local weather change. “Managed surroundings” agriculture, corresponding to greenhouses and vertical farms that enable crops to be grown indoors and in stacked layers, is taking off around the globe. Canada presently imports contemporary produce at a low price from areas which are way more susceptible to local weather change. Tech-based options like these might assist us preserve home meals safety in an more and more unstable world of local weather and political disruptions. Meantime, mobile agriculture and precision fermentation applied sciences, that are advancing quickly, might more and more present shoppers with options to meat and dairy merchandise.

“I feel plant breeding might actually do it for us. In the event you take a look at all of the advances we’ve made in greater yields, illness, resistance, all these sorts of traits and that’s all been centered above floor. There’s an equal alternative under floor to make every kind of great developments.”

Stuart Smyth, Affiliate Professor, Faculty of Agriculture and Bioresources, College of Saskatchewan

The challenges: Synthetic intelligence and knowledge science, engineering, the “Web of Issues”, together with sensors and drones, in addition to biotechnology, are essential to the event of contemporary ag-tech. So are the abilities that go along with them. But efforts to attract this specialised expertise and develop these expertise amongst youth have fallen in need of our wants.

Most assist for Canadian analysis comes from public funding—which has been behind a lot of our successes. Marquis Wheat, which dramatically improved yields within the Prairies within the early 1900s, was developed by means of Dominion Experimental Farms—a system of stations, operated by the federal authorities, which investigated agricultural issues and created new strategies to help farmers. Present funding applications may be onerous for researchers, notably for rising applied sciences that don’t fall simply into particular funding classes. And sure regulatory necessities—together with these surrounding novel plant traits—can act as obstacles to approval and funding in rising areas of plant science like gene modifying.

Whereas Canadian researchers proceed to depend on public funding, different nations together with the U.S., are seeing most of their total analysis {dollars} come from the non-public sector. Competing within the subsequent period of agriculture will rely on our capability to mobilize extra of this capital.

Preventing meals waste

Emissions come up not simply from the meals we develop however from the meals we waste. In Canada, 58% of the meals produced for human consumption is wasted or misplaced alongside the provision chain, of which 18% could possibly be prevented.23 The financial price of all that waste is $49 billion a yr—a determine that climbs even greater when misplaced labour, transportation and different elements are accounted for.

Although plenty of waste occurs throughout manufacturing and processing, simply 14% of that’s avoidable. Technological developments have executed a lot to eradicate meals loss on the manufacturing stage, an effort pushed partially by the fee financial savings it generates.

Amongst shoppers, the issue of meals waste is way extra entrenched. Research counsel 18% of all meals produced is wasted in ways in which could possibly be prevented. Nearly half of that avoidable waste comes from accommodations, eating places and households, with shoppers in wealthier nations way more more likely to waste meals than these in poorer nations. As that meals decomposes in landfills, it releases greenhouse gases, as a lot as 12 MT—when measured from end-to-end.

Fixing the issue of shopper meals waste means tackling a cluster of causes. These embrace time shortage (shoppers lack the time they should plan meals and use meals earlier than it goes unhealthy); an absence of schooling on how you can stop meals waste by means of extra considerate storage and use of cooking waste like vegetable stalks; and retail promotions that encourage shoppers to purchase greater than they want.

Along with slicing meals loss, trade has executed a lot to increase the shelf lifetime of meals by means of packaging and different controls. Extra novel packaging options are underway that use plant-based and microbial packaging and coating options to do the identical. Sensors can inform us when meals has really spoiled quite than leaving shoppers to depend on greatest earlier than dates. And new enterprise fashions are rising, corresponding to those who rework meals that doesn’t meet retail requirements into poultry feed and different makes use of.

However finally, fixing the issue of meals waste will rely on us.

Suggestions: Seeding change

Chopping our greenhouse gasoline emissions, whereas additionally assembly our accountability to feed the world, is a problem rife with uncertainty. With many agricultural applied sciences and farm practices nonetheless in nascent phases, and widespread adoption nonetheless elusive, questions will proceed to hold over our actions.

This dangers paralyzing our efforts at a time when there isn’t time to lose. The stakes of the present meals disaster are staggering: shortages and excessive costs for staple items, have put the lives and livelihoods of 345 million folks in speedy hazard of acute meals insecurity.24 Low revenue nations, a lot of which rely on imports from Ukraine and Russia, together with Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, are among the many most susceptible. In North America and different greater revenue nations, hovering meals costs attributable to shortages and post-pandemic inflation are additionally dominating public agendas.

The urgency of the state of affairs means we’ll must act boldly utilizing the very best instruments we’ve as we speak. And we’ll must do it collectively. Policymakers, non-public companies and producers might want to collaborate in new methods as we pursue a nationwide technique designed to assist farmers. This begins by specializing in the constructing blocks we’ve recognized above, and on the important thing pillars of expertise, folks, coverage, and economics. Working with BCG Centre for Canada’s Future and the Arrell Meals Institute, we’ll discover every of those pillars in depth within the coming months.

Constructing an agricultural sector match for an age of local weather disruption is a problem not like any we’ve confronted. However few nations are higher positioned than Canada to confront it.

The worldwide risk of meals insecurity rising. So, too, is our capability to steer a brand new age of innovation to each harvest our land and maintain it.

Planting a paradigm shift: Constructing the 4 key pillars of a low emissions meals technique


Set up a nationwide plan for a low-emissions agriculture sector. Our plan for slicing emissions should take all stakeholders under consideration and rally not simply farmers, however buyers, non-public enterprise and Canadians. Producing meals extra sustainably will imply making powerful selections and supporting funding in key applied sciences, like carbon seize, utilization and storage (CCUS). It’ll additionally imply doing a greater job of selling Canada’s sustainable meals to the world.

Lead efforts to create world alignment on a low-emissions meals customary. Roughly 61% of our agricultural emissions are tied to items which are finally exported. Advancing an emissions discount technique that’s misaligned with our key export markets might create friction in our buying and selling relationships. We have to align buying and selling companions round a typical set of objectives, indicators and GHG measurement, reporting and verification protocols. Canada, a longstanding supporter of free commerce, and a worldwide chief in multilateral processes, can lead these efforts.

Combine agricultural methods with vitality methods. Farmers are more and more embracing alternatives to generate renewable pure gasoline from their operations. Integrating these efforts with a nationwide vitality technique might assist speed up the deployment of unpolluted vitality each on and off the farm.


Create a central funding physique for analysis and growth, working in shut partnership with academia and the non-public sector. Lots of the most promising and superior areas of Canadian agricultural analysis don’t match inside present funding classes. A extra centralized system corresponding to in the US Division of Agriculture, might develop a extra holistic, nationwide view of the place assist and innovation is required. The management proven by federal governments in creating the innovation tremendous clusters offers a playbook for the way Canada can tremendous cost agri-food analysis and innovation.

Give attention to applied sciences that maintain essentially the most promise to chop emissions. As we goal funding to expertise that accelerates productiveness, we have to additionally entice extra funding to applied sciences that lower emissions from key drivers within the provide chain—improvements like anaerobic digesters, feed components and CCUS. Funding also needs to be centered on these applied sciences that allow sustainable practices to be adopted and rewarded, like soil sensors, and precision applied sciences.

Create modern tax and monetary incentives to spur extra non-public funding. Accelerating non-public funding in Canadian agtech will imply pondering extra creatively in regards to the tax and monetary incentives we’ve in place. We have to encourage the automation that shall be key to our agricultural productiveness and worldwide competitiveness—and that may draw extra capital to the applied sciences that may drive the way forward for low emissions farming. Increasing accelerated depreciation past tangible property to incorporate synthetic intelligence and different agtechs is one risk.


Make it pay. Forcing farmers to pay for emissions they already produce might add strain to excessive meals costs. A greater method is to compensate farmers for lowering them. But present fashions like carbon credit are inadequate and place an unequal burden on the farmer. A nationwide customary for measuring the impression of emissions-cutting actions, together with a mechanism for measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) carbon saved in soils, could possibly be essential to compensating farmers and to empowering policymakers and monetary establishments to mobilize assist. This customary—additionally key to attracting funding—will should be designed and controlled on a nationwide foundation and aligned internationally with our main buying and selling companions.

Share the danger. For farmers, the adopting of emissions-cutting expertise provides extra uncertainty to a enterprise already weighted with danger. Governments and different corporations within the agricultural worth chain have an vital function to play in sharing the danger burden. That’ll imply insuring towards yield losses for farmers who undertake sustainable practices. For instance, proper now there isn’t a incentive for sustainable agriculture beneath crop insurance coverage schemes although these practices are confirmed to scale back the impression of flooding and drought. Crop insurers needs to be prepared to regulate premiums to replicate these shifting dangers.


Construct the abilities. Leverage the Labour Market Info Council to pinpoint the abilities farmers must shift towards a extra resilient meals system. As we’ve famous in earlier analysis, digital expertise shall be essential to the way forward for meals manufacturing.25 So too will understanding how you can apply instruments in ways in which lower emissions. Past knowledge and expertise, some farmers will want assist to make use of regenerative agriculture strategies and different instruments on the farm. Experiential studying platforms together with hands-on mentorship and co-op applications can speed up this transition.

Broaden the expertise pool. The lack of know-how in regards to the potential for a satisfying profession in agriculture has hampered recruitment of people with the coding, synthetic intelligence and knowledge science expertise essential to the way forward for meals. But few sectors maintain higher potential for innovation than agriculture. Educating college students on the alternatives within the area—by means of co-ops, outreach and liaison applications—shall be essential to bringing their abilities to the problem.


Naomi Powell, Managing Editor, Economics and Thought Management
John Stackhouse, Senior Vice President
Colin Guldimann, Economist
Farah Huq, Senior Director, Content material Technique
Darren Chow, Senior Supervisor, Digital Media
Trinh Theresa Do, Senior Supervisor, Thought Management Technique
Zeba Khan, Supervisor, Digital Publishing
Aidan Smith-Edgell, Analysis Affiliate
Kitty Wu, Intern
Gwen Paddock, Director, Sustainability & Local weather – Agriculture
Ryan Riese, Nationwide Director, Agriculture

Boston Consulting Group
Keith Halliday, Director, Centre for Canada’s Future
Kilian Berz, Managing Director and Senior Accomplice
Shalini Unnikrishnan, Managing Director and Accomplice
Sonya Hoo, Managing Director and Accomplice
Chris Fletcher, Managing Director and Accomplice
Thomas Foucault, Managing Director and Accomplice
Wendi Backler, Accomplice and Director, BCG Centre for Development and Innovation Analytics
Kate Banting, Head of Advertising and marketing and Social Affect
Simon Beck, Principal
Youssef Aroub, Challenge Chief
Ilana Hosios, Guide
Anguel Dimov, Guide
Pilar Pedrinelli, Guide
Zahid Gani, Guide
Rachel Ross, Guide
Rachit Sharma, Lead Data Analyst, BCG Centre for Development and Innovation Analytics

Arrell Meals Institute, College of Guelph
Evan Fraser, Director
Margarita Fontecha, Arrell Meals Institute Scholar, Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental Design and Rural Growth
Laura Hanley, M.Sc. Scholar, Meals Science
Ibrahim Mohammed, Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental Sciences
Deus Mugabe, Ph.D. Candidate, Plant Agriculture
Brenda Zai, M.Sc. Scholar, Meals Science
Dr. Krishna KC, Analysis Scientist
Dr. Jesus Pulido-Castanon, Put up-doctoral Analysis Affiliate
Emily Duncan, PhD Candidate

    Along with these cited on this report, we’d prefer to thank the next people for his or her insights:

    • Katie M. Wooden, Affiliate professor, Ruminant Diet and Physiology, College of Guelph
    • Lisa Ashton, PhD Candidate, College of Guelph
    • Lenore Newman, Canada Analysis Chair in Meals Safety and the Atmosphere and Professor of Geography, Simon Fraser College
    • Dennis Laycraft, Government Director, Canadian Cattle Affiliation
    • Brenna Grant, Government Director, Canfax Analysis Providers
    • Mark Thompson, Government Vice President, Chief Company Growth and Technique Officer, Nutrien Ltd.
    • Michelle Nutting, Director, Agricultural and Environmental Sustainability, Nutrien Ltd.
    • Dan Heaney, Analysis Affiliate, Plant Diet Canada
    • Tom Steve, Basic Supervisor, Alberta Wheat Fee
    • Jason Lenz, Vice President, Alberta Wheat Fee
    • Dan McCann, CEO, Precision AI
    • Daniel Brisebois, Ferme Coopérative Tourne-Sol
    • Juanita Moore, Vice President of Company Growth, GoodLeaf Farms
    • Janay Meisser, Director of Innovation, United Farmers of Alberta
    • Les Wall, CEO, KCL Cattle Firm
    • Kate Parizeau, Affiliate Professor, Division of Geography, Atmosphere, and Geomatics, College of Guelph
    • Tammara Soma, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Useful resource and Environmental Administration (Planning), Simon Fraser College
    • Mauricio Alanís, Director, Sustainability Technique and Partnerships, Maple Leaf Meals
    • Ryan Phillippe, Director, Company Growth, Genome Canada
    • Josh Bourassa, Analysis Affiliate, The Simpson Centre for Meals and Agricultural Coverage
    • Guillaume Lhermie, Director, The Simpson Centre for Meals and Agricultural Coverage
    • Lejjy Gafour, President, Cult Meals Science Corp.
    • Jane Church, Company Engagement Supervisor, Nature United
    • Tony Ward, Professor Emeritus, Division of Economics, Brock College
    • Tyson Kamminga, Chief Monetary Officer, Kroeker Farms Restricted
    • Wayne Rempel, CEO, Kroeker Farms Restricted
    • Brian Gilvesy, CEO, ALUS
    • Dave MacMillan, CEO, Deveron UAS
    • Derek Eaton, Director of Public Coverage Analysis and Outreach, Sensible Prosperity Institute
    • David Hughes, President and CEO, The Pure Step Canada



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