Originally published September 18, 2017 on CBC News
Hollywood director James Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, have announced they are investing in an organic pea processing plant in Saskatchewan.
The Oscar-winning Cameron appeared Monday in Vanscoy, a village southwest of Saskatoon, to say the couple have formed Verdient Foods to handle 160,000 tonnes of organic pea protein.
He said that, once operational, the plant will become the largest organic pea protein facility in North America.
The Camerons have entered into a four-year research contract with the non-profit Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre.
They will also be working with the University of Saskatchewan and the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.
The aim is to develop value-added organic food products that will be produced by Canadian and global companies using ingredients from the Verdient plant.
James Cameron said at the news conference in Vanscoy the business vision was informed by he and his wife’s decision to eat a plant-based diet.
Although he said he was “not unsympathetic” to the cattle industry, Cameron is concerned about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture.
“Frankly we can live without [meat],” said Cameron.
“We won’t, so those [farmers] are safe for a while, but it’s very important for us to shift — I believe, as a civilization — shift our focus to that expanding wedge of plant-based proteins.”
Asked about possible concerns from cattle farmers in Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall said the province should be responding to market signals from around the world.
“Consider the fact that we’re trying to build our relationship with countries that have a high population of vegetarians — India is a great example,” he said.
“There’s a reason why we have 80 per cent of their lentil imports from about 15,000 Saskatchewan farmers and a significant portion of peas as well.”
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Cameron did not provide a dollar amount for his financial investment in the plant, but said the “ballpark is big.”
He added that demand for plant proteins like pea protein is increasing. But he believes the meat sector will survive because the overall demand for food is growing.
Cameron is a Canadian-born filmmaker behind the blockbuster movies Titanic and Avatar.
His wife is an environmental advocate and former actor.