Film director Cameron backing Saskatchewan organic pea plant

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Verdient’s James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron and PIC’s Greg and Olivia Yuel (l-r) announce the opening of the Verdient plant at Vanscoy. (Golden Media photo by Chad Reynold)

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

Western Canadian feeder cattle prices traded $5-$10 lower last week, with certain auction barns experiencing a week-over-week decline of $15. After 15 months of devastating margins, feedlots have thrown in the towel. If one of the largest, most sophisticated and efficient feedlots shuts the doors, the smaller players are wondering what they're doing in this environment. The spillover psychological effect hung over the market like the Black Plague this past week. While many operators were attending sales, their hands were in their pockets and the phone was in silent mode. The cattle-feeding investor was also the sidelines and some of these players are sitting out a year. Prior to fall of 2015, the market required no thinking, but now everyone is sharpening their pencils and calls to analysts are almost overwhelming. The fear was as thick as fog with most operators blinded by market uncertainty. Heavier yearlings led the feeder complex lower. Larger-than-expected pork and beef production set a negative tone for live cattle futures and inhibited any potential for profitable forward contracting. This reinforced the risk-averse attitude amongst feedlot operators. In central northern Alberta, larger-frame medium-flesh Angus-cross steers averaging around 850 lbs. traded for $165. Discounts on fleshier types were noted in the range of $3 to $6. Heifers weighing 900 to 925 lbs. were readily trading from $150 to $155 across the Prairies. Larger-frame 850-lb. heifers reached up to $158 to $160 in southern Alberta. Lethbridge values were once again a bright spot, trading at a marginal premium as feedlot operators focused on local quality cattle. However, this was not representative of Western Canada. Calf prices were also sharply lower. During the summer of 2017, weekly beef production could reach five-year highs and the market is incorporating a risk discount. Charolais-cross mixed steers weighing just over 600 lbs. were quoted at $190 in the Calgary area. Manitoba and Saskatchewan markets appeared to have support due to limited numbers on offer. Steers averaging 650 lbs. were quoted at $182 in central Saskatchewan. Mixed heifers weighing 600 lbs. with medium flesh were quoted at $160 to $163 across the Prairies. The surge in weekly beef and pork production is weighing on the fed market and spilling over into feeders. It may take longer than anticipated for the market to absorb these larger-than-expected supplies. -- Jerry Klassen is manager of the Canadian office for Swiss-based grain trader GAP SA Grains and Produits. He is also president and founder of Resilient Capital, which specializes in proprietary commodity futures trading and commodity market analysis. Jerry owns farmland in Manitoba and Saskatchewan but grew up on a mixed farm/feedlot operation in southern Alberta, which keeps him close to the grassroots level of grain and cattle production. Jerry is a graduate of the University of Alberta. He can be reached at 204-504-8339.


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