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Investment to improve Canadian agriculture sector's data use Project to build the capacity of the Canadian agrifood sector to use data, creating benefits along the value chain – Financial Post

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba, July 20, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, Protein Industries Canada announced a co-investment in a project that will improve data use within Canada’s agriculture and agrifood sector. The project is led by the Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI) in collaboration with the Alberta Data Institute (ADI), a program under Alberta Innovates, as well as a number of other participating organizations.

The EMILI Data Initiative addresses data literacy knowledge gaps and works to better understand important issues arising from the increasing use of data in the agrifood sector, such as data ownership, standardization and privacy. This will lead to a number of direct and indirect benefits, including a better understanding of the current challenges and opportunities related to the use of data-intensive technologies, stronger trust and transparency related to data use, and the building of a culture of data governance and stewardship across the value chain.

“Data offers Canada’s agrifood sector great opportunities for sustainable growth,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “With support from the Protein Industries Supercluster, EMILI and its partners will offer unique insight and benefits all across the value chain, from farm to fork.”

“Data is essential in driving innovation in the Canadian agriculture and agrifood industry. This project is a great example of how better coordination and cooperation will position Canada as a world leader in the global plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem. This partnership will strengthen our agricultural production and lead to a more sustainable future,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food.

The project will focus on four areas: using hands-on technology demonstration to explore the ability to share data along the value chain; researching data ownership, data privacy, and interoperability and standards for agrifood data; developing data literacy training programs for producers, technologists and others working along the food value chain; and creating an advisory working group to provide oversight and direction for next steps. Each area will advance the project’s overall goal of strengthening the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector’s data ecosystem.

“Improving the way our sector uses data will go a long way toward helping satisfy consumer demands,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “With the right data systems in place, consumers will be able to trace their food from farm to fork—including its positive sustainability story. This project will help bring us closer to where the sector needs to be to make that a reality.”

To deliver this ambitious project, EMILI will work in collaboration with a number of external organizations, including the following:

  • Assiniboine Community College;
  • The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN);
  • Enns Brothers;
  • Farm Credit Canada (FCC);
  • G3;
  • The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN);
  • Merit Functional Foods;
  • Pulse Canada; and
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic

A total of $903,000 is being invested into the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing $438,000 and the project participants together investing $465,000.

“The successful integration of intelligent technologies into Canadian agriculture and food will depend on the effective stewardship of agrifood data,” EMILI Board Chair Ray Bouchard said. “To make sure that digital tools create value for everyone along the value chain we need to develop a solid understanding of privacy, ownership and security issues, the best business models, as well as the opportunities presented by standardization. This is especially critical for growers and small- and medium-sized businesses who must be full partners in the digital transformation of our sector. EMILI is excited to lead this foundational project that will build a culture of data governance and sustain trust in data and digital tools across the agrifood value chain.”

“Alberta Innovates is keen to support the digitalization of the agriculture sector,” Alberta Innovates VP of Health Innovation Tim Murphy said. “Alberta Innovates’ Alberta Data Institute is pleased to partner on this data focused initiative — improving data capabilities will be a key differentiator empowering novel business models and addressing current gaps, which will enhance the competitiveness of Canada’s plant based agri-food sector.”

“At Merit we are continually looking at ways to work with our grower partners to create efficient and traceable supply chains,” Merit Functional Foods VP of Operations Dan Kraft said. “Merit’s customers are demanding that we can trace our pea and canola protein products back to the farm where they were grown. We look forward to working with the project EMILI team to identify ways we can leverage data in the plant protein supply chain to create value for everyone.”

This marks Protein Industries Canada’s 23rd project announcement, including their third Capacity Building project announcement. Together with industry, they’ve invested more than $377 million into Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector. They’re currently accepting Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for both their Technology and Capacity Building projects.

Media may contact:

Miranda Burski
Regina, Sask.
306-581-1340
miranda@proteinsupercluster.ca

About EMILI

The Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI) is an industry-led non-profit organization established to accelerate the growth of the agri-food industry in Manitoba, and the other prairie provinces, by promoting digital agriculture and digital agriculture technologies.

EMILI’s digital agriculture expertise is based on its connections to the plant protein industry and the agri-food sector. EMILI has also developed links with numerous academic institutions and organizations from across the technology sector. EMILI’s vision is to lead the development of Manitoba’s digital agriculture ecosystem through our four strategic pillars, innovation and research, skills, training and talent development, intelligent technology integration and capital enablement.

For more information please visit the project website at http://data.emilicanada.com.

About the Alberta Data Initiative (ADI)

Alberta Innovates is the province’s largest research and innovation public agency funded by the Alberta Government’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation that works to solve today’s challenges, create new opportunities and forge a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for Albertans today and for generations to come.

The Alberta Data Institute (ADI) is an Alberta Innovates program, supporting Alberta’s data infrastructure and data-driven innovation. We focus on smart health and smart agriculture, striving to understand the business challenges in these sectors. We support the use of data science and advise on relevant, current, and accessible data assets.

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Martin Pelletier: How anti-vaxxers can impact your investment portfolio – Financial Post

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Three things to watch for to gauge the sustainability of the post-COVID recovery

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Equity markets appear to be taking a breather as we move from early to mid-cycle in the post-COVID recovery, with market participants trying to figure out what that means and where we go from here. Many are wondering if we have seen peak earnings and peak growth, and if the rise of the variant will cause another shutdown.

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You can see this in the muted reaction to some recent impressive quarterly earnings reports in the United States, with some high expectations already priced into share prices. And then investors hit the panic button on Monday, taking the S&P 500 and S&P TSX down to 3.5 per cent from its recent high, while the Canadian dollar has now lost all of its gains and is now flat on the year.

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During these times its important to remember that markets don’t always go up and near-term volatility doesn’t necessarily imply that a looming meltdown is on the horizon. For example, did you know that we’ve counted that the S&P 500 has fallen more than two per cent eight times this year alone?

However, market corrections are quite common and can actually be quite healthy as they flush out those participants on the margin (excuse the pun) without the wherewithal to stand by their longer-term convictions. In that regard, looking ahead there are three main factors worth watching, not only as to the sustainability of this post-COVID recovery but also overreactions allowing for the opportunity to rebalance portfolios.

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The bond market

We continue to believe that this very much is still a central bank-driven market environment. Macro policy will weigh heavily as markets react to indications of where the Fed and other central banks are positioning. For example, markets corrected more than 15 per cent when Bernanke signalled tapering back in 2010, and some argue that the tech bubble was burst when Greenspan indicated hikes were coming in early 2000.

That said, this time around central banks are in a bit of a pickle with rising inflationary pressures offset by the need to keep debt servicing costs down for massive government fiscal programs currently being funded by printing money. In addition, we’ve read that there are a record amount of job openings, but wages aren’t high enough to entice those unemployed going off government assistance.

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This is where the bond market can be a good indicator and worth keeping a close eye on, but at the same time recognizing they don’t always get it right. More recently, long-term U.S. Treasuries (20 year +) have rocketed nearly 12 per cent from their May lows, nearly recouping all of their losses this year-to-date. For those overweight bonds, especially longer-dated ones, we wonder if they’re being given a rare second chance?

Oil prices

Don’t kid yourself. Despite the plethora of talk around the transition to clean energy, high oil prices still have a material impact on the economic recovery in the U.S. Five of the last six recessions have been preceded by a spike in the price of crude oil, with the only exception being the recession in 2020 caused by the COVID lockdowns.

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The good news is that WTI oil prices have fallen from last week’s highs of nearly $75.50, down more than 11 per cent to below $67 a barrel on Monday. This couldn’t come at a better time as main street is in the midst of struggling with supply chain shortages causing inflationary pressures in key household staples such as food, clothing and gasoline.

Household spending & anti-vaxxers

We received some good news out of U.S. retail sales last Friday, showing a rebound month-over-month in consumer spending, which is a primary driver of GDP growth. People are tired of being locked up and have now been given a taste of what it’s like to experience a pre-COVID world again. This also appears to be in its early stages, as U.S. households are still sitting on quite the nest egg, having accumulated trillions in excess savings during the pandemic.

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Looking forward, the trillion-dollar question, therefore, is if the stupidity of those choosing not to get vaccinated is greater than many expect, resulting in the rise of the variant this fall and forcing another lockdown. We hate to position portfolios around stupidity, but it is a risk nonetheless and worth keeping a very close eye on.

In conclusion, pullbacks are signs of a healthy market and more so, given they present a great chance to reposition and rebalance portfolios. This can be a rather difficult thing to do in today’s headline-grabbing environment, but it helps to strip out the noise, have a long-term plan and deploy some form of near-term active risk-management.

Martin Pelletier, CFA, is a portfolio manager at Wellington-Altus Private Counsel Inc. (formerly TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd.), a private client and institutional investment firm specializing in discretionary risk-managed portfolios, investment audit/oversight and advanced tax and estate planning.

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In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Critical Minerals: A New Focus For Foreign Investment Review – Energy and Natural Resources – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts

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The Canadian government has recently signalled that it will use
it national security powers to scrutinize foreign investments in
businesses involved in critical mineral production and
supply chains.

This is an important change, given the number of mining
companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges, including many that
have little nexus to Canada except for the listing.

Critical minerals

The Canadian government’s current views on the significance
of critical minerals have been developed in two recent and
important policy statements:

  • A Critical Minerals List, released on March 11,
    which includes 31 minerals considered critical for the sustainable
    economic success of Canada and its allies1. The list is
    largely consistent with a similar U.S. government list of 35
    critical mineral resources.
  • Updated guidelines on the national security review of foreign
    investments, which were released on March 24. The guidelines
    identify areas that could raise national security concerns, and now
    include acquisitions of Canadian businesses involved in producing
    critical minerals.

Critical minerals are viewed as those that are: essential to the
economy of Canada and its allies; and whose supply may be at risk
due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy or
other factors2. A
key concern is with market dominance by suppliers that are state
owned enterprises and the risk of politically motivated supply
disruption. Canada is not alone in expressing concerns of this
nature3.

Investment Canada Act reviews

Under the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the
government has discretion to review virtually any foreign
investment on the grounds it could be “injurious to
Canada’s national security.” The review jurisdiction is
broad and covers mining businesses with part of their operations in
Canada, even if mines themselves are located overseas.

To date, national security reviews have tended to focus on
Chinese investments involving sensitive technology, critical
infrastructure or personal data. Mining has not been an area of
significant concern under the ICA.

Acquisitions of Canadian-listed mining companies, even by
Chinese investors, have generally been viewed as non-problematic.
For example, Zijin Mining’s acquisition of Nevsun Resources,
Continental Gold and Guyana Goldfields in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and
Endeavour Mining’s acquisition of SEMAFO in 2020 were all
approved under the ICA. Nevsun was involved in critical mineral,
copper, although its acquisition pre-dates the identification of
copper as a critical mineral in March 2021.

The only mining transaction blocked on national security grounds
was Shangdong Gold’s proposed acquisition of TMAC in 2020. But
that investment was likely blocked because of TMAC’s strategic
location and other factors, not its gold mining operations. (Gold
is not on the critical minerals list.)

Other mining-rich countries have also started to scrutinize more
closely Chinese investments in the mining industry. Notably, the
Australian government blocked two proposed investments by Chinese
entities related to critical minerals in 20204.

Practical implications

The vast majority of mining investments will continue to receive
ordinary course approvals under the ICA. However, this new policy
highlights that some investments are likely to face significant
scrutiny.

The highest-risk investments will involve proposed Chinese
acquisitions of Canadian mining companies involved in the
production of critical minerals in Canada.

Lower-risk investments will involve proposed Chinese
acquisitions of Canadian-listed mining companies not involved in
critical minerals, where their assets are located outside Canada,
and/or where target businesses are not material producers of
critical minerals.

Non-Chinese investors should generally expect approvals to be
processed in the ordinary course. Indeed, an added consequence of a
more restrictive policy on Chinese investments will likely be
opportunities for non-Chinese investors and possibly in the
development of new and existing mineral projects in Canada.

Finally, when considering potential investments where national
security issues are expected to arise, investors and Canadian
businesses alike should engage counsel and government relations
advisors as early as possible in the transaction planning process
given the complex and evolving nature of the national security
review regime under the ICA.

Footnotes

1 The list comprises the following minerals: aluminum,
antimony, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorspar,
gallium, germanium, graphite, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium,
manganese, molybdenum, nickel, niobium, platinum group metals,
potash, rare earth elements, scandium, tantalum, tellurium, tin,
titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, zinc.

2 A Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals
Collaboration
, released in January 2020, which aims to
facilitate development of secure supply chains for critical
minerals that are key to strategic industries such as defence,
aerospace and communications. Canada is considered to be
well-placed to supply the U.S. with many of the critical minerals
due to historically strong political and economic ties; a stable
political, economic and regulatory environment; an extensive
mineral endowment; and a robust metals and mining sector. Of the 35
critical metals identified by the U.S., Canada is a sizable
supplier of 13 of such minerals, including being the largest
supplier of potash, indium, aluminum and tellurium to the U.S. and
the second-largest supplier of niobium, tungsten and magnesium.
Canada also supplies approximately one quarter of the uranium needs
of the U.S.

3 Most notably the U.S., European Union, Japan, South
Korea and Australia.

4 These investments were: (1) Chinese state-owned steel
producer, Baogang Group Investment’s proposed A$20m investment
in Northern Minerals Limited; and (2) Chinese lithium chemical
producer, Yibin Tianyi Lithium Industry Co Ltd.’s proposed
A$14.1m investment in AVZ Minerals Limited.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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Newcomer SageBlan backs up its belief in Montreal tourism with heavy investment – Montreal Gazette

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The upstart hotel investment firm is betting an expected rebound in tourism in Quebec will generate big returns over the next decade.

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An upstart investment firm is plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into Quebec hotels in the belief that a tourism rebound can generate big returns.

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SageBlan Investments has spent about $160 million to buy and revamp four Quebec properties in the past 18 months, including the Vogue Montreal downtown and the former Hôtel Place Dupuis near the Berri-UQAM métro station. Although another $40 million worth of renovations are ongoing, SageBlan is already thinking about its next acquisitions, managing partner and president Gaurav Gupta said.

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“We think the future is bright here,” Gupta, 30, told the Montreal Gazette in an interview.

Whether such optimism is warranted will depend on tourism’s ability to overcome COVID-19‘s economic toll. Local assets may need up to two years to return to pre-pandemic profit levels, the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal said last week.

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Originally from the Toronto area, Gupta teamed up with adopted Torontonians Anil and Bleda Basegmez — Turkish-born, Swiss-raised cousins with a family background in real estate — to create SageBlan in early 2019. All three investors subsequently moved to Montreal and are now taking French lessons, according to Gupta.

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“Montreal is one of the best cities that we’ve ever lived in,” he said. “French is a beautiful language and I want to learn it. Within the next 12 months I’ll have a better handle.”

SageBlan made its first acquisition in mid-2019 with the purchase of Hotel Plaza Valleyfield and closed its latest transactions — the Vogue Montreal and Quebec’s City’s Delta — a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.

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“The deals were struck pre-COVID, they were renegotiated during COVID, and closing them at the height of the pandemic was no easy task,” Gupta said. “We are long-term investors and we believe in the resilience of the Quebec marketplace. We would make these investments again today.”

SageBlan’s hotels “are all repositioning plays,” Gupta said. “The properties are being renovated, rebranded or being made more efficient.”

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The acquisition spree means SageBlan now oversees about 1,000 rooms. It has about 500 hotel employees, in addition to about 20 executives.

Before starting SageBlan, Gupta spent several years working for his family’s Sunray Group, a hotel company that owns more than 50 properties and is run by his uncle.

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“In my previous job, I was spending two weeks a month here and I fell in love with Montreal on a couple of fronts,” he said. “On a personal front, I discovered a vibrant city with culture, dining, architecture and this European feeling that you couldn’t capture anywhere else in Canada. On the business front, I felt there was a huge runway for growth, and that Montreal was on the cusp of a real estate boom. It’s a world-class city. That’s the reason we’re focused on Montreal in terms of investment opportunities.”

SageBlan’s most advanced project is the 30-storey, 354-room Hôtel Place Dupuis, which is being converted into a Hyatt Place for about $25 million. Work is due to be completed in September, Gupta said.

“It’s a complete gut renovation,” he said. “We’re trying to bring life back to that hotel, which is located in an under-served area that’s now receiving a lot of investment. We want to make a difference and become almost an anchor for other businesses. The area is gentrifying and will be completely changing over time” with the renovation of Place Émilie-Gamelin and the coming Radio-Canada tower and Molson brewery real-estate projects, he said.

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SageBlan is also busy redeveloping the 148-room Vogue Montreal on de la Montagne St. Once work is done, probably in March, the asset will become the first hotel in Canada to operate under Hilton’s Curio Collection banner. It will include a new ground-floor café.

“This is a true five-star asset,” Gupta said.

As a young company run by thirtysomething executives, SageBlan is eager to adopt cutting-edge technologies for all its hotels. Key features will include mobile check-ins as well as “army-grade” air and water purification systems, Gupta said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy so that we can be at the forefront of guest expectations,” he said.

Much time is also being spent canvassing acquisitions.

“As you get settled in a market, it’s good to have your ear to the ground,” Gupta said. “We have a couple of strategic assets that we’re looking at within Quebec and downtown Montreal that would be a good fit for the portfolio. Stay tuned.”

ftomesco@postmedia.com


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