Richardson to take food innovation downtown

Canadian grain and agrifood firm Richardson International plans to marshal its food research and product development crews in a new downtown Winnipeg space.

The privately-held, Winnipeg-based company announced Wednesday it will put up over $30 million to build what it calls the Richardson Innovation Centre, a four-story, 62,000-square foot facility to go up a block east of its head office on Lombard Avenue.

The centre is envisioned as “a training facility for our employees and customers and an education centre for food science students and the culinary community,” said Chuck Cohen, Richardson’s senior vice-president for technology.

“As a Winnipeg-based company, we look forward to bringing our customers, suppliers and partners from around the globe to this centre to showcase our products and capabilities and provide them with a rich experience in a very unique setting.”

The new centre is expected to house Richardson’s food development team, product development suites, analytical laboratory and a culinary test and demonstration kitchen.

That includes food and technology researchers now working in “nooks and crannies” at the company’s facilities across the Prairies, Richardson CEO Curt Vossen said during a press conference Wednesday.

Based on the “current scope” of Richardson’s food R+D work, that’s expected to include about 100 people at first, with capacity for double the staff level, he said.

The centre will boast a “cutting-edge” microbiology lab and an “extensive” quality analysis area to support the company’s quality assurance and food safety groups. Its office areas are expected to offer room for expansion to focus on innovations such as robotics and automation in food packaging and processing.

Positioning these departments in the same space “will optimize research, analytical and educational activities and facilitate the efficient development of truly innovative products,” the company said in a release.

R+D work needs a “modern platform for testing solutions, troubleshooting issues and exploring new ideas as they relate to market needs and evolving customer taste profiles,” Vossen said in the release.

To test raw products’ derivatives or to create “entirely new” product streams, the company’s technical capabilities “must be backed by the right technical facilities,” he said.

The company also expects to use the centre for collaborative work with Winnipeg-based institutions such as the University of Manitoba, Red River College and Cigi (the Canadian International Grains Institute), among others, Cohen said.

Having the centre available will allow researchers to discuss ideas, exchange information and examine upcoming food trends face-to-face on a day-to-day basis, Vossen said.

Asked about federal funding recently made available for research into plant-based protein sources through the Protein Industries Canada (PIC) supercluster — in which Richardson is already participating — he said the company’s investment in the new centre will go ahead regardless of participation from “any public entity.”

If, however, there are programs in which the new centre can participate, the company will research those for a possible fit, he said.

Richardson’s food processing operations include four oilseed crushing, processing and packaging plants in Canada and oat mills in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

The company’s farm-level research operations include its Kelburn Farm just south of Winnipeg and its new Bennett Farm near Regina. It also backed the establishment of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in 2006 at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Construction on the Richardson Innovation Centre site is set to begin this month for completion by the spring of 2020, Richardson said. –– AGCanada.com Network

curt vossen
The Alberta government's ban on imports of wine from British Columbia is poised to be the first case challenged under the new interprovincial Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). The British Columbia government announced Monday it will formally challenge the Alberta ban through the CFTA dispute settlement process. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Feb. 6 ordered the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) to put an "immediate halt" on imports of B.C. wines. The wine ban followed a B.C. proposal announced Jan. 30 to restrict increased transport of crude oil in the form of diluted bitumen, while the B.C. government studies the potential effects of spills. B.C.'s proposed limits on crude oil traffic stand to delay Kinder Morgan Canada's planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., a project approved by the federal government in 2016. “We’re standing by our wine producers and the communities that rely on this important industry by launching a formal trade dispute, and we are confident we will be successful," Bruce Ralston, B.C.'s minister of jobs, trade and technology, said in a release Monday. A representative from the Internal Trade Secretariat, which oversees administration of the CFTA, wasn't immediately available for comment via email Tuesday. According to the AGLC, Alberta's ban affects imports of about 1,460 wine products from 117 B.C. wineries. B.C. has over 350 licensed wineries and 929 vineyards. Alberta's actions, Ralston said Monday, "are inconsistent with Alberta’s obligations under the CFTA, and we will protect our reputation and the interests of British Columbians.” Miles Prodan, CEO of the B.C. Wine Institute, said in a statement Monday the organization is "hopeful for a favourable result" from the challenge. "However, given the lengthy process that a challenge through the (CFTA) dispute settlement process will take, we continue to ask the (AGLC) to lift the unfair ban and allow the free trade of B.C. wines into Alberta." The CFTA took effect July 1 last year, updating the previous interprovincial Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). The new pact includes a "regulatory reconciliation process," meant to deal with regulatory differences that "act as a barrier to trade." However, the new agreement is also meant to preserve governments' ability to "adopt and apply their own laws and regulations for economic activity in the public interest in order to achieve public policy objectives." The new pact also commits its parties to "establish a working group that assesses options for further liberalizing trade in alcohol." -- AGCanada.com Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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