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Artificial intelligence funding won't affect jobs planned for Bowden plant: CEO

A federal government program to invest $30 million in projects that use artificial intelligence to help expand Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients industry won’t change the number of jobs planned for a Bowden facility, CEO Kevin McGeough says
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BOWDEN — A federal government program to invest $30 million in projects that use artificial intelligence (AI) to help expand Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients industry won’t result in fewer jobs planned for a Bowden facility, a company official says. 

The federal government announced the program in mid-September.  

In a news release, it was announced that the money will enable Protein Industries Canada to launch “a new stream of programming that will co-invest in collaborative projects that utilize artificial intelligence to help grow Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem efficiently and sustainably.” 

Protein Industries Canada is an “industry-led, not-for-profit organization created to spur growth of high-quality plant protein and plant-based co-products in Canada,” its website says. 

Last year, More Than Protein Ingredients Ltd. announced plans to build a facility in Bowden to upgrade protein in yellow peas. 

That product would then be sold to manufacturers that could turn it into plant-based meat, chicken -- even fish-like products, as well as noodles and fibre for animal food. 

At the time of that announcement, a crowd attending the event was told the Bowden facility would create 50 to 60 full-time jobs once production begins in the fall of 2023. 

More Than Protein Ingredients Ltd. officials were asked by the Albertan what will happen to those jobs in the wake of the federal government’s announcement. Will they be replaced by artificial intelligence? 

Chief executive officer Kevin McGeough responded. 

“Based on our latest employment projections, we still expect to hire the same number of employees as we have always planned,” McGeough wrote. 

Earlier in his answer, McGeough noted that AI is being utilized in all sorts of industries. 

“In ag, we are seeing it being used in selecting better genomes for seed or in aiding us to make better processing decisions. 

“Personally, I see it as a tool to analyze data to make better decisions, resulting in reduced business risk and increased efficiency," he wrote. 

“Like all industries, we are focused on building an innovative and automated plant to remain competitive today and in the future.   

“While we are still defining the role AI will play in our plant, we will, nevertheless, hire highly skilled people to work for us. From conception, More Than Protein has always focused on building a highly skilled and capable team.” 

McGeough said the company’s goal is to “provide a diversified work environment with competitive wages, where our team will be composed of extremely talented individuals that are focused on producing better plant-based ingredients.” 

He added that More Than Protein Ingredients Ltd.'s current employees have “effectively collaborated to lay the foundation for building a leading-edge protein ingredient company.  

“As we have done when the company was founded, we will be looking for highly skilled people that want to work for an innovative, entrepreneurial company and will continue to do so in the future,” he wrote.  

“I think that it is great (Protein Industries Canada) is forward-looking and recognizes that AI will play a critical role in taking Canada ag to the forefront.”