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What do Nutrien and Maple Leaf Foods and RBC have in common - CANZA

What do Nutrien and Maple Leaf Foods and RBC have in common - CANZA

RBC, Loblaw, Maple Leaf Foods, Nutrien, and McCain Foods hope to start a new era for Canada's food sector with net-zero ambitions

By Denise Faguy

Photo Left to right:  Molly Thomas, Moderator; David Hughes, The Natural Step; Charlie Angelakos, McCain; Michael McCain, Maple Leaf; Dave McKay, RBC; Ken Seitz, Nutrien; Keith Halliday, BCG; Galen Weston, Loblaws Companies Limited.

On Wednesday October 10, 2023, the Canadian Alliance for Net-Zero Agri-food (CANZA) revealed its plan to overhaul the agri-food sector by aiming for net-zero emissions.

Only one truly agriculture company was part of the alliance: Nutrien agriculture. Other alliance members include RBC, Loblaw, Maple Leaf Foods, and McCain Foods. The University of Guelph's Arrell Food Institute is involved as well as the BCG Centre for Canada’s Future, The Natural Step Canada, and the Smart Prosperity Institute.

CANZA’s primary mission is to innovate and adopt technologies reducing the sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 150 megatonnes come 2050. The focus is on fostering a circular economy and a net-zero value chain in the food sector, which, if left unaltered contends the group, could contribute 196 million tonnes to GHG emissions by 2050.

Two leading initiatives underscore CANZA's immediate action plan: promoting climate-smart agriculture and expanding a national biodigester network. Both are designed to minimize emissions drastically, demonstrating Canada’s commitment to sustainability amidst global food security challenges.

At the heart of CANZA's strategy are cutting-edge technologies and transformative policies promoting sustainability. These include climate-smart agriculture and a robust biodigester network, targeting a substantial slash in emissions.

The alliance, endorsed by powerhouses like RBC and Maple Leaf Foods, is a testament to the industry's unified front against climate change. “Farmers have been embracing climate-smart agricultural practices for decades... Our bank is proud to support CANZA and its focused mission to shift from strategy to action on our net-zero transition,” asserts Dave McKay of RBC.

When asked how CANZA would engage the farmer, Ken Seitz, President and Chief Executive Officer at Nutrien, made the following comment “This all hinges on the farmer.”

Seitz shared that Nutrien’s goal will be to share with farmers all the work that Nutrien is undertaking with its farmers who represent 685,000 acres of farmland committed to participating in its current carbon initiative.

He acknowledged that farmers must trust the data that is being collected, as well as how it is reported. None of those details have as yet been worked out, but they are underway the group says.

Seitz acknowledged that it takes time to build that trust with farmers, and that in the end it is about helping producers improve their financial health. CANZA says that it symbolizes a collaborative stride towards environmental responsibility, inviting participation across the agri-food ecosystem. It's not just a step towards sustainability; it's a giant leap for the future of food in Canada and the world.

The media event was held after a day-long event with panels and presentations exploring how to achieve the net-zero goal. In case you were wondering, there were indeed several farmers in the audience.

CFA President Kieth Currie (8th-generation dairy, hay and sweet corn farmer from Ontario) participated in the event, and had this to say at the end, “I like the concept of what's being presented today. I think CANZA has a real opportunity to help the entire argi-food value chain really dive into how we can continue to grow good food in a climate smart way. I just hope that the collaboration of the CANZA group can actually bring in the type of investment and knowledge and understanding, and the communications platform that the agriculture industry will need to succeed.”

“I thought the day was awesome, I'm happy to see the direction that CANZA is going.” said Katie Frisen, Head of Finance, Riconny Farms, located in Manitoba. “You know CANZA want to make sure that farmers and agricultural community have a strong voice. So far what I've heard with CANZA is that they are putting the farmer at the forefront in these discussions.”

Wayne Rempel, CEO of Kroecker Farms Limited in Manitoba is one of the biggest organic potato producers in Canada said he was excited by what he heard and that he was looking forward to seeing the project move forward.

"I think when we focus on progress instead of perfection and we can see today as a real win,” said Kristjan Hebert is the President of the Hebert Group and Visionary and Managing Partner of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV), a 30,000-acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan. “When you have this many large private and public companies that are looking to work and collaborate with farmers, and then hopefully collaborate with the federal government to enact appropriate policies and then move everything in the right direction, it’s positive.”

“Every agri-entrepreneur can be a little bit skeptical,” he said when asked if farmers would buy into what the alliance is proposing. “I think we’ve got to look back and say as farmers we've cared about sustainability -- or climate positive or regenerative or whatever marketing term you want to use -- forever. Our legacy or sustainability is to leave the land, the financial statements, the industry and our community in a better state. And I think all farmers can agree with that.”

Only time will tell if these powerhouses can make the changes outlined from the alliance. Will farmers see this as just hype once again, or will they embrace the transformative change outlined by these industry leaders. Throughout the media event, farmers, producers, and others from the agriculture industry asked several key questions. Watch the video below to see those questions as well as the answers from the panelists.

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