Canadian Supercluster Supports Ground-Breaking Protein Production Facility to Address Global Food Insecurity

Funding to support the showcase of state-of-the-art Canadian technology for high density cricket production and processing facility

HAMILTON, Ontario, Feb. 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, has announced funding for a multi-partner project, led by Aspire Food Group. Aspire Food Group is a world leader in building the lowest cost, highest-density, and most ethical automated food-grade protein production system. The new facility is expected to revolutionize food-grade protein production and address food insecurity and the high environmental cost of protein production.

Aspire has begun construction of the state-of-the-art high density cricket production and demonstration facility employing 60 people in London, Ontario.

Aspire’s collaborators, TELUS Agriculture, A&L Canada Laboratories Inc., Swiftlabs Inc., and DarwinAI, are contributing to and will be show-casing their high performance technologies as part of the facility. The operations will employ industrial automation and robotics, IoT, and deep learning/analytics to farm crickets that have a similar protein quality to meat and an environmental footprint similar (or even better) than plants. The automated and modular technology can be scaled and utilized in any geography as well as across other industry sectors.  

The impact the production facility will have on the Canadian advanced manufacturing ecosystem and on the economy is significant. The demonstration project is a model of Industry 4.0. This is the first time industrial IoT, sensors, ASRS and AI will be deployed in climate controlled, indoor vertical agriculture with living organisms.

The collaborators have joined in a project to leverage technology to address one of the most significant social challenges of our generation - feeding the world, while improving the quality and safety of our food. The facility will highlight the sustainability of non-meat protein processing, establishing an insect protein supply chain in Canada featuring world class technology and leading to job creation.

The project will develop the world’s first fully automated food grade, insect protein manufacturing site, positioning Canada as a leader in this space. DarwinAI, TELUS Agriculture, Swift Labs and A&L Canada Laboratories are leaders in their industries.

This project is the largest endeavor funded by NGen to date under the Canadian Government’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative. NGen investments help build consortia that facilitate broader collaboration and cooperation among SMEs and supporting organizations to accelerate the implementation, scale-up, and commercialization of advanced technologies for manufacturing in Canada.


“This is exactly the type of project the Government of Canada envisioned supporting when the Superclusters Initiative was conceived,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “This project promotes Canada’s strength and competitiveness not only in advanced manufacturing, but in multiple industries through collaboration and the application of world class technologies. It is clear that Canadian businesses have the capabilities and the expertise to develop real-world solutions for global issues, and Canada’s Superclusters are helping them make these solutions a reality.”

“I am glad that the Superclusters Initiative is supporting the first-of-its-kind cricket protein production demonstration facility,” said Ali Ehsassi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Innovation and Industry). “The Government is proud to support Supercluster projects like this one, which helps create jobs, generates economic benefits and helps Canada's advanced manufacturing capacity stand out in the world.”

“At $16.8 million in NGen funding, this project represents a high mark for NGen,” said Jayson Myers, CEO, NGen. “This is a truly innovative and ground-breaking project and supports the objectives of NGen - developing transformative and applied world class advanced manufacturing solutions while creating mutually beneficial partnerships that have will have a positive impact on Canadians and the economy.”

“Our collaboration with these innovative Canadian firms within the walls of this new facility will have far-reaching effect. The facility will establish Canada as a leader in the rapidly growing insect and protein industries. The technologies and products developed by TELUS Agriculture, Swift Labs, DarwinAI, and A&L Laboratories will accelerate technology adoption in the manufacturing and agricultural industries and grow an inclusive and digitally skilled workforce.” Mohammed Ashour, CEO and Co-Founder, Aspire Food Group

“By tackling Food Insecurity with this unique opportunity, not only can we showcase our world class engineering team, but we also put Canadian innovation on a Global stage, says Lara Swift, CEO of Swift Labs. "The partnership we have with Telus, to build these custom advanced-manufacturing sensors, is something that allows us to tackle real problems and use ‘tech for good’.”

"TELUS, and our recently-launched TELUS Agriculture division, are committed to leveraging our world-leading technology to improve food security across the globe. Feeding an ever-expanding population requires new, innovative ways of thinking about our food system from farm to fork, and we are proud to support Aspire's mission to provide a stable source of alternative protein to the food value chain," said Francois Gratton, EVP and Group President, TELUS, and Chair, TELUS Health and TELUS Agriculture. "With expertise in a diverse set of industries and technologies, TELUS is uniquely positioned to contribute to Aspire's efforts on several fronts, including TELUS Ventures' previously-announced investment in the project, a 5G-ready private network to connect TELUS IoT sensors that help increase food safety at the facility, and TELUS and TELUS Agriculture executives lending their business and industry expertise in an advisory capacity. Sustainably solving food security here in Canada, and across the globe, is a substantial task, and we are strengthened to have Aspire and NGen in on that effort."

“We are extremely excited about applying our technology to such an innovative and forward-looking initiative,” said Sheldon Fernandez, CEO of DarwinAI. “Our unique ability to illuminate the ‘black box’ of Artificial Intelligence has enabled transformative AI in numerous contexts, and the opportunity to advance the important causes of food security and next-generation manufacturing is special indeed. We look forward to helping the Aspire Food Group implement their ambitious vision.” 

“A&L is excited to collaborate on this project as it fully aligns with our mission of supporting sustainable development,” said Nevin McDougall, President and Chief Commercial Officer of A&L Canada Laboratories. “Our expertise resides in biological and agri-food systems so we have much to contribute and learn from this initiative.”

About NGen - Next Generation Manufacturing Canada

NGen is the industry-led not-for-profit organization that leads Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster. Its mandate is to help build world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada for the benefit of Canadians. NGen works to strengthen collaboration among its membership of more than 3,100 manufacturers, technology companies, innovation centres, and researchers, and provides funding and business support to industry-led initiatives that aim to develop, apply, or scale-up transformative manufacturing solutions in Canada for commercialization in global markets.

About Aspire Food Group

Aspire Food Group is a world leader in building the world's lowest cost, highest-density, and most ethical automated food-grade protein production systems. Aspire raises and processes crickets into all-natural, sustainable, superfood ingredients that are nutritionally on par with, or superior to, livestock, cell-cultured, and plant-based alternatives. Aspire targets markets that utilize crickets and their byproducts in human and pet nutrition, biomedicine and agrochemicals. Aspire Food Group is a Canadian company founded in 2013 in Montreal, with headquarters and commercial operations established in London, Ontario. 

About DarwinAI

DarwinAI, the explainable AI company, enables enterprises to build AI they can trust. Based on years of distinguished scholarship at the University of Waterloo, the company’s patented explainability technology accelerates advanced deep learning design. DarwinAI’s solutions have been leveraged in a variety of enterprise contexts, including in advanced manufacturing and industrial automation. Within healthcare, DarwinAI’s technology resulted in the development of Covid-Net, an open source system to diagnose Covid-19 via chest x-rays. The company was named a cool vendor in Gartner’s October 2019 Cool Vendors in Enterprise AI Governance and Ethical Response report. CB Insights also selected DarwinAI for its AI 100, CB Insights’ annual list of the 100 most promising private AI companies in the world.  To learn more about DarwinAI, visit their website at or follow them on Twitter, @DarwinAI.

About A&L Canada Laboratories

We are an innovative, research driven technology company focused on sustainable development. Through leading expertise, modern laboratory facilities and strong customer focus, A&L serves a wide range of industries including Agriculture, Environmental, Food & Pharma -- globally.

In Agriculture, A&L provides comprehensive analytical services for soil, plant tissue, feed, fertilizer, and water. A&L’s services also include production recommendations, remote sensing and precision agriculture capabilities. A&L Biological Inc. is a subsidiary of A&L Canada Laboratories Inc. focused on research and development of biological compounds for use in agricultural production systems. The Environmental division provides organic and inorganic chemistry and general chemistry using state of the art technology and methodology. For Food & Pharma, A&L provides analytical services for plant tissue, water, media and finished product. A&L’s services also include disease diagnostics, genetic analysis, production recommendations, and Plant Monitoring Program. The company operates two analytical laboratories serving clients throughout Canada, the US and Internationally.

Media contact:

Robbie MacLeod,
Director, Strategic Communications
Next Generation Manufacturing Canada