Exclusive Interview: Lionel Kambeitz on Sustainable Eating
Lionel Kambeitz knows food.
The Canadian entrepreneur and international business developer is also a fourth-generation farmer with deep roots in his home of Regina, Saskatchewan. He shared some insights on the benefits of shifting towards an eco-friendly business.
Kambeitz co-founded Above Food Corp. in 2019 to create a plant-based food company that’s vertically integrated so that consumers can understand their food’s journey from seed-to-fork. As the CEO and Executive Chairman of Above Food, Kambeitz works to make food products that are good for the environment and good for people.
He is the founder of many agricultural based businesses and of Delta CleanTech Inc., a Canadian leader in carbon capture technology. He covered a number of the benefits of businesses going green.
Q: Why did you decide to create a food company focused on sustainability?
Lionel Kambeitz: My family has roots in the food industry for several generations, so it felt natural to follow in their footsteps. There’s a long family history of innovation in sustainable agriculture, and Above Food seemed like a natural next step.
In 2015, one of the family businesses, KF Kambeitz Farms, was actually picked as the North American representative for Expo Milano, which had the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” in alignment with the United Nations’ adoption of Sustainable and Scalable Agriculture that same year.
I think most of us now have some degree of understanding that many large-scale agriculture operations aren’t sustainable. At Above Food, we saw an opportunity to grow crops sustainably and offer better quality food products along the way.
Perhaps most importantly, we discovered that Western Canada has some of the best land in the world for growing the best plant-based proteins in the world, like chickpeas, yellow peas, green peas, fava beans, and lentils.
Q: What makes Above Food different from other plant-based food companies?
Lionel Kambeitz: We are thinking big at Above Food. It’s a vertically-integrated company focused on a “seed-to-fork” business model. With having complete custody of the genetics of these crops, we’ll offer some of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense plant-based foods anywhere in the world.
That’s really the challenge. Many people think it’s all about taste, but the reality is the technology and know-how already exists to make great tasting plant-based food. The challenge actually lies in making the food nutritious. That’s why we’re so excited about the quality of the crops we are able to grow.
Q: Do you see any potential barriers to the success of the plant-based food movement? What are they?
Lionel Kambeitz: Well, I don’t think anything is going to slow down the transition to more plant-based foods. The numbers don’t lie, and there’s a rising concern about the need to address climate concerns through changes to the agricultural industry, so there’s no doubt this movement will continue to grow.
However, it will be important to be careful about this massive transition in our food industry and in our global economy. We need to make sure that this disruption includes the participation of local and small-size producers, and we need to understand that different countries will have different needs. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for this.
Q: Are there any products or partnerships that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about one.
Lionel Kambeitz: Above Food Corp. recently entered into a binding transaction agreement with Atlantic Natural Foods, which is based in Nashville, North Carolina. Atlantic is one of the best manufacturers out there of plant-based seafood alternatives, and we think this partnership is a gamechanger.
By combining our two companies, we will become the first shelf-stable producer of plant-based foods with total vertical integration. That’s an incredible advantage in the marketplace and means we can reliably produce a consistent supply of quality products.
Also, Atlantic already has a global distribution platform that will allow Above Food to expand its consumer reach. It’s very exciting.
Q: Do you think the food industry is doing enough to encourage sustainability?
Lionel Kambeitz: There are always going to be people who say the food industry is not doing enough. I understand that. We are not doing enough, soon enough.
What’s important to acknowledge is that the change is happening, and it seems clear that the trend is not going to reverse itself. More and more people are demanding plant-based foods. More people are seeking out vegetarian diets, for both health reasons and ethical reasons. These social changes will drive positive changes in the agricultural industry. They already are, and Above Food is at the vanguard of this new approach to sustainable agriculture.
Q: How do you prioritize sustainability in your personal life?
Lionel Kambeitz: My business is integrated with my family, so I don’t always see a hard line between my professional and personal life. I have involved myself in a business model that reflects my personal attitude about sustainability. At Above Food, we endeavor to include locals as much as possible in our plans. For example, we are working with First Nations to offer First Nations food products that benefit their communities as well as our business.
I believe that the right business model can generate profits while also making the world a better place. I feel immense pride in running a business that’s geared toward sustainability and helping humanity.