In my previous column, I discussed why pea processing (and pulses in general) are attracting more attention. Fractionation of Canadian field peas is poised to become a major frontier of Canadian agriculture for a couple of different reasons: increasing demand for plant-based protein in the human diet and the desire to cut down on the high financial and environmental costs associated with making animal protein and raising livestock.
There’s more interest than ever among producers looking to diversify and do something other than traditional seed cleaning, farming and the like. They see the end use markets associated with pulses and the many opportunities therein stand out for them: these markets have been opened up very aggressively with more traditional cereal crops since the wheat board disbanded seven years ago.
Roquette — a French company — announced a new $400-million pea processing facility in Manitoba. Other plants are springing up as well —with Academy Award-winning movie director James Cameron investing last year in a pea processing plant in Saskatchewan. Add to this a number of other facilities that we at Can-Seed are working on in both animal and human consumption and it starts to create a vibrant marketplace.
These big plants are going to need pulses to process, which is where opportunities for growers come in. If a grower wants to be something other than just a commodity producer and have a hand in producing an actual product, they can connect to people all over the world and market to them — if they so choose.
But there’s a big reason why getting into processing and catering to end-use markets is often a challenge: it takes a different skill set and it’s scary.
The biggest apprehension I hear from people is the fact they’ve always done things the same within their farming family, which is to buy more land, scale up, and then pay off the land. In other words, the traditional agricultural business model. But the thing about traditional agriculture is that it’s a high-risk proposition with low profit margins. If you can better utilize the land you have with end-use opportunities, why not do that instead of taking on more debt and risk?
There’s a world of opportunity that’s open to growers if they choose to take advantage of it. End use markets for pulse-related products are becoming big business. See my next column for a snapshot of what that looks like.