CAAIN Supporting Solutions to Meat Processing Issues

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Seeking Innovative Approaches to Automating Processors

The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence  Network (CAAIN) today launched its Beef and Pork Primary Processing Automation and Robotics  Program, a $5M initiative designed to foster the development and adoption of innovative technologybased solutions to challenges facing red meat processors.

“Our team is pleased to unveil this opportunity to support the country’s red meat processing sector,”  said CAAIN CEO, Kerry Wright. “The pandemic has exacerbated ongoing difficulties associated with labour shortages, worker safety and productivity, and supply chain disruptions. Plant closures further  impact producers whose hogs and cattle must be processed in a timely manner. We have diligently engaged beef and pork industry stakeholders in broad-based consultations and one-on-one discussions to better determine key priorities. The results were unequivocal. We must act now to help advance
processors who want to implement emerging technology that will enhance their competitiveness and  profitability.”

CAAIN’s mandate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is to focus its funding on  three types of technological advancements of importance to the agri-food sector. One of these pillars is  the burgeoning field of automation and robotics. Through the program announced today, CAAIN is  providing further support to innovators in this field. But CAAIN cannot take all the credit.

“We wish to acknowledge and thank the industry professionals who helped our program managers develop this competition, providing perspective and defining priorities. Their collaboration is particularly  important because, of the $49.5M the Government of Canada has invested in this network, $9.5M is  earmarked to fund livestock innovation,” explained Ms. Wright. “While we already have several projects  on the go in this sub-sector, we have been encouraged to seek ways to alleviate labour challenges  experienced recently by Canadian meat processors. The issues in question gained public prominence when COVID outbreaks shut down facilities, temporarily disrupting the supply chain, and resulting in
major shortages and price increases. Encouraging modernisation is a big piece of the puzzle and, while  there is likely no silver bullet solution, we can certainly move the goalposts by supporting innovative  approaches to automation across the sector.”

When added to the total of approximately $17M CAAIN expects to provide to the 16 successful applicants of its first two competitions, the $5M that will be used to support this beef and pork processing initiative pushes CAAIN’S funding commitments to nearly $22M. Details are available online  at caain.ca.

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