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NGen funds nearly $17M for new Industry 4.0 plant to produce alternative proteins


Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) has announced $16.8 million in funding for a multi-partner project led by Aspire Food Group.

Aspire Food Group is building an automated food-grade protein production system that uses alternative proteins. The new facility is expected to help change food-grade protein production, and address food insecurity and the high environmental cost of protein production.

Aspire has begun construction of a state-of-the-art, high-density cricket production and demonstration facility employing 60 people in London, Ontario.

Aspire’s collaborators, TELUS Agriculture, A&L Canada Laboratories, Swiftlabs and DarwinAI are contributing to and will be showcasing their technologies as part of the facility.

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The operations will employ industrial automation and robotics, IoT and deep learning/analytics to farm crickets that have a similar protein quality to meat and an environmental footprint similar (or even better) than plants. The automated and modular technology can be scaled and used in any geography as well as across other industry sectors.

The impact the production facility will have on the Canadian advanced manufacturing ecosystem and on the economy is significant, says NGen in a statement.

The demonstration project is a model of Industry 4.0. This is the first time industrial IoT, sensors, ASRS and AI will be deployed in climate-controlled, indoor vertical agriculture with living organisms.

The facility will highlight the sustainability of non-meat protein processing, establishing an insect protein supply chain in Canada.

“Our collaboration with these innovative Canadian firms within the walls of this new facility will have far-reaching effect. The facility will establish Canada as a leader in the rapidly growing insect and protein industries,” says Mohammed Ashour, CEO and co-founder, Aspire Food Group.

“The technologies and products developed by TELUS Agriculture, Swift Labs, DarwinAI, and A&L Laboratories will accelerate technology adoption in the manufacturing and agricultural industries and grow an inclusive and digitally skilled workforce.”

This project is the largest endeavour funded by NGen to date under the Canadian government’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative.