Richardson International will spend $15 million to expand and upgrade its Richardson Oilseeds canola-crushing and refining operation in Lethbridge.
John Haen of Winnipeg, vice-president for Richardson Nutrition, said the expansion should be operational by February 2012, and will create safer working conditions for employees. He said some of the repetitive jobs will be automated, but as new efficiencies take hold and the company continues to develop new food products meeting new government health standards, the company’s expanded marketing potential will create opportunities for more jobs in Lethbridge.
Still known locally as Canbra Foods, Richardson will increase the size of its canolapackaging plant attached to the crushing and refining operation by 40 per cent. It will mean a physical plant expansion of 33,000 square feet that will also include more warehouse and bulk oil storage. It will remove some rail trackage to make room for the project. It will also boost production efficiencies with fully automated oil receiving and blending processes.
Haen credits “unprecedented” customer demand for healthier food products for the decision to build. “By increasing the footprint for our Lethbridge plant and automating the way we do business, we will be able to better serve our customers’ needs,” he said.
Demand for low-trans fat products continues to grow and Haen said Richardson has been spending on research and development over the past 18 months to develop new canola-based oil, non-hydrogenated margarine and shortening products for the food-processing, baking, food-service and retail markets.
That work will continue with a new $1.5-million super-lab facility in one part of the existing Lethbridge plant. That lab is also expected to be operational in the spring 2012. Haen said the new automated systems and improved technology will increase both food quality and safety management systems.