By Tim Kalinowski
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
A Taber hemp farm and its research partners have been chosen as the first ever recipients of a Protein Industries Canada Supercluster grant.
Federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains announced the government would be providing a $4-million matching grant to Rowland Farms, Corteva Canada and Botaneco to help develop processing abilities of the Canadian oilseeds industry in late June.
“They were looking to stimulate parts of the economy Canada could become global leaders at,” explained Rowland Farms general manager and chief financial officer Keith Jones. “One of things we saw in our business is demand for plant protein products start to expand. The whole idea behind the supercluster projects is these are industry-led research projects. They are meant to drive innovation and create new economic undertakings and create jobs.”
Jones says the supercluster grant will allow his company and its partners to drive oilseed protein research to a whole new level.
“We have been really interested in creating additional high-value crops,” said Jones. “Adding value to crops. We’re a large grower of a whole bunch of different grains, oilseeds and pulses, and we have grown industrial hemp for the past 20 years. We know hemp has a really great protein profile, but the conventional processing for hemp doesn’t allow you to get the best of the protein out of the hemp seed. We have partnered with a couple of companies as a consortium to engage in some applied research to find ways to produce really high concentration and proteins. That is one of the objectives of this project with Protein Industries Canada.”
“Right now we sell hemp hearts, and sometimes the hemp we grow is sold for crushing to produce hemp oil or hemp protein,” he said. “The hemp oil that comes out of conventional crushing processes can be somewhere around 55 to 60 per cent pure. It’s good quality, but it still has fibre and starch in it. To be able to be used as a high-end protein ingredient for a lot of these new plant protein products, conventional processing just doesn’t get us there.”
Rowland Farms will be providing the field level knowledge and the real estate to conduct the research, and its main partner, Botaneco, will be doing experiments with secondary processing to get hemp oil protein purity up to 80 per cent or higher. Jones said if they can succeed in doing that, it will be a game changer for the Canadian oilseed industry as a whole.
“We think it is not only going to help the hemp side of our business but what we are going to learn out of this processing technology development is things that can really help other oilseeds as well as canola, flaxseed, mustard seed. We feel all the excitement about plant protein has really mainly been focused on peas, pulses and lentils. We think Canadian oilseeds have a lot they can bring to the party in terms of plant protein. It opens up a whole new market opportunity for any Western Canadian farmers who are growing oilseeds,” said Jones.
Jones says he is excited to get started with this research which has such important implications for the future of Canadian agriculture.
“It is pretty exciting for our southern Alberta project to be the first of all the supercluster projects in the protein industry phase in Canada,” he stated. “We are really pleased to be part of this. We have known this plant protein market is a compelling opportunity for some time, but until this came in it remained just out of our reach.”