Film director Cameron backing Saskatchewan organic pea plant

A major new pulse plant has set up shop southwest of Saskatoon with plans to help back development of pulse-based foods and mentor organic growers — and bringing with it a pair of unusually high-profile investors.

Verdient Foods on Monday announced the opening of a pulse food processing plant at Vanscoy, Sask., with plans for gradual capacity increases to over 160,000 tonnes as the facility takes on “additional product lines.”

However, what brought the unusually heavy media coverage to Monday’s announcement was the plant’s operating company, PMC Management, which manages several processing ventures spearheaded by film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron.

Cameron, originally from northern Ontario, is best known as the director of films such as The Terminator, Avatar and Aliens, while Amis Cameron has acted in films such as The Usual Suspects and Cameron’s Titanic.

The financial terms of the Camerons’ investment in Verdient, in partnership with Saskatoon-based PIC Investment Group and Whitecap Dakota First Nation, were not released Monday.

Verdient on Monday also announced it has signed a four-year research contract with the Saskatoon-based Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, working with other food companies to develop value-added organic products using Verdient’s pulse ingredients.

The Food Centre, a not-for-profit partnership between the province, the Saskatchewan Food Processors Association and the University of Saskatchewan, includes pulse processing among its specialties, helping develop products for uses such as meat and cheese substitutes, baking ingredients, breakfast cereals and nutritional bars.

Verdient said it expects the plant to become the largest organic pea protein fractionation plant in North America once fully operational. The company plans to use “dry” fractionation to isolate and concentrate protein, starch and fibre from pulse crops for use in specialty flours and other products.

The Camerons said Monday they also plan to work with Saskatchewan farmers in a mentorship program to “provide a profitable structure to keep younger generations of Canadian farmers engaged in organic farming.”

“For years, we’ve been on a mission to help the world eat healthy food grown by farmers who have chosen to farm organically,” said Amis Cameron.

The Camerons’ related ventures include the Plant Power Task Force campaign; Muse School, a Los Angeles-based private school devoted to “eco-literacy;” the Red Carpet Green Dress fashion campaign; and Food Forest Organics, a New Zealand market supplied by Cameron Family Farms in the Wairarapa region.

PIC Investment Group’s portfolio also includes stakes in water treatment company ClearTech, hydroponic greenhouse firm Ecobain Gardens, mustard processor MPT and Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems. CEO Greg Yuel said PIC’s “long-term perspective matches our partner in this opportunity perfectly.”

The Verdient plant also won’t be the only pulse player in Vanscoy, which since 1995 has been home to lentil and canary seed processor and exporter Prairie Pulse, northeast of the Verdient site on Highway 7.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, attending Monday’s announcement, said “the Camerons’ decision to move forward with this project in Saskatchewan is a tribute to the province’s grain producers, our growing food processing industry, and our world-leading research community.” — Network

Winnipeg/Chicago | Reuters -- Canada has shipped the most wheat to China in 14 years, contrasting a sudden halt in canola trade amid a diplomatic dispute between the countries, as Chinese buyers shunned the United States. China bought 1.5 million tonnes of wheat from Canada from August 2018 through April 2019, nearly double the pace a year earlier and the most since 2004-05, according to Canadian Grain Commission data. China's brisk wheat buying from Canada, even as it refuses canola and detains two Canadian citizens, shows that supply and demand, not just politics, factor into that diplomatic dispute. Canada and the United States are the two biggest suppliers of high-protein wheat, which provides the gluten strength necessary for baking. Australia's high-protein wheat has suffered from drought. "If they need the protein, they probably need to come to Canada, rather than the U.S.," said a Canadian wheat exporter. "It's not easily replaceable." China imposed a 25 per cent tariff last year on U.S. wheat in a trade war with the United States, effectively halting sales and shipments to what was the fourth largest U.S. export market the previous season for high-protein U.S. hard red spring wheat. This year, China halted imports of Canadian canola, citing pests in some shipments, shortly after Canadian police arrested an executive with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies at the request of the U.S. "China is just not buying wheat from the U.S. because of this trade spat," said Terry Reilly, senior commodities analyst with Futures International. "I don't see China returning as a major importer of U.S. wheat unless the trade war gets completely settled." The 42,000 tonnes of U.S. wheat exports to China so far this year as of April are the lowest in 11 years, according to U.S. Census Bureau trade data. China did not purchase any U.S. wheat in May, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed. May and June Canadian sales to China, which are not yet captured by government data, have continued but at a slower pace, a second Canadian exporter said. The uptick to China comes as Canadian farmers struggle with dry conditions this spring, following a year of depressed incomes. "Any extra sale is critical this year. That gives us some optimism," said Jim Wickett, a Rosetown, Sask. farmer and chairman of Western Canadian Wheat Growers. China's buying makes it Canada's second-biggest foreign wheat market this year, after Indonesia, accounting for 11 per cent of total exports. It comes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was concerned that China could broaden its crackdown on Canada's exports. -- Reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Karl Plume in Chicago.


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