MONTRÉAL – Faced with the challenges and debates that are currently shaking the agricultural world and the agri-food industry, La Coop fédérée firmly believes that a sustainable development that is more respectful of 21st century agriculture will require massive investments as well as greater coherence in our daily gestures and actions. This was the substance of the message delivered today by La Coop fédérée’s Chief Executive Officer, Gaétan Desroches, to the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain (CCMM).
“Our fellow citizens are increasingly concerned about the quality of the food they consume, about sustainable development and preserving the environment. And we should be happy about that. The big question is: how to feed ourselves within a sustainable agriculture and agri-food ecosystem? Profound changes will have to happen out in the field and also in the coherence of the consumer’s discourse,” said Mr. Desroches in front of an audience that brought together business people and industry players.
An economic engine
With a direct and indirect contribution of $4 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and with the 35,000 full-time jobs that it generates, La Coop fédérée intends to exercise its leadership in the ongoing transformation occurring in this sector of the economy which accounts for 9% of Québec’s total exports.
“The industry must reinvent itself in order to adopt the principles of sustainable development. We all know this. However, we are living in an interdependent world where La Coop fédérée, producers, consumers, and distributors have to play a meaningful role to bring these principles to life,” said Desroches.
The chief executive officer also cautioned his audience about the culture of mistrust that has developed in recent times towards researchers and research. “This culture of mistrust could put a damper on research. It would be a shame to remain complacent when we need, more than ever, to develop vocations, especially amongst the younger generation. The debate about the future of our food and our agriculture often sparks strong emotions. We need to regain confidence in the advances resulting from science and technology. Quebec does not have the luxury of abandoning R&D,” said Mr. Desroches.
To support his remarks, Mr. Desroches reviewed the technological advances that have marked the agricultural world in recent years. Farmers can now assess the performance of their fields in real time thanks to data transmission systems or sensors installed on their equipment.
This ranges from drones flying over fields to map areas that need fertilizer to land-based sensors that measure precipitation and humidity, air and soil temperatures. These advances accelerate the process of growing crops that can produce more while using fewer resources, or that are resistant to drought, heat or cold.
“Let’s take up the challenge of making progress in research and science and make sure that consumers make the right choices,” said Desroches.
About La Coop fédérée
Founded in 1922, La Coop fédérée is the largest agri-food enterprise in Québec, the only pan-Canadian agricultural cooperative and the 24th largest agri-food cooperative in the world. It represents more than 120,000 members, agricultural producers and consumers, who are grouped together in nearly 60 cooperatives spread out across several Canadian provinces. It employs 14,000 people and has sales reaching $6.5 billion. Including its affiliated cooperatives, La Coop fédérée accounts for nearly 19,000 employees and combined sales of $9.5 billion. Its activities are divided into three divisions: Olymel S.E.C. (under the Olymel, Flamingo and Lafleur, Aliments Triomphe, and Pinty’s banners), Sollio Agriculture (under La Coop, Elite, Agrocentre, Agrico and Agromart, and Country Stores banners), and Groupe BMR inc. (under the BMR, Unimat, Agrizone and Potvin & Bouchard, La Shop and Country Stores banners).