Canola meal could benefit fish farms

April 25, 2007

Release Date: April 25, 2007
Business venture could renew life at Arborfield plant

Murray Lyons, The StarPhoenix

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A new business venture that could see concentrated Saskatchewan canola meal exported to fish farms around the world should also give renewed life to an aging Saskatchewan alfalfa dehydrating plant in Arborfield.

Nearly $19 million in venture capital funds is pouring into the creation of Can Pro Ingredients Ltd., a new company that is using a process developed during the past decade by MCN BioProducts Inc. of Saskatoon.

The process to be used by Can Pro (short for canola protein) will concentrate canola meal into a high-protein content feed that is expected to find widespread acceptance in the world’s aquaculture businesses.

Todd Lahti of Saskatoon, president and CEO of Can Pro, says salmon farms around the world are having an increasing challenge finding fish meal as a feed and are looking for plant-based alternatives that are high in protein. The dried, concentrated granular canola meal product developed by the scientists at MCN would appear to fit the bill.

“The protein concentrate will have a protein content of 65 per cent, which is about the same as fish meal,” Lahti said.

Investments from six venture capital funds are going into Can Pro Ingredients. In addition, the assets and shares of Arborfield Dehy Ltd. are being rolled into Can Pro, which is setting up its canola processing facility on the dehydrating plant site.

This will allow about 70 local producers to continue to have an ownership stake in the new company, Lahti said.

The dehydrating plant hired about 15 to 20 people year-round, with a spike of about 70 people when alfalfa is being harvested. Lahti says another 15 or more permanent employees could be added for the canola processing component of Can Pro, which he points out is a big number in a town of about 300 people. On a day-to-day basis, the Arborfield operation of Can Pro will be managed by Dave Edwards, who has been the general manager of Arborfield Dehy for the past few years.

The plant initially will process about 50,000 tonnes of canola a year, but the company could be well-positioned to triple that volume if markets develop, Lahti says.

Unlike the high-volume canola crushing plants in Nipawin and Clavet, the Arborfield facility won’t use solvents to separate oil from the meal in the canola-crushing process. Instead, it will use a cold-press process that makes the oil valuable in itself for an animal energy supplement or as an oil that is more easily converted to biodiesel.

News of the development is an exciting first step for Saskatchewan canola producers, says Laurie Hayes, executive director of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission. She says all of the literature suggests the market for aquaculture feed is “enormous.”

“As biodiesel production comes on stream, a lot of it is going to be cold press and there is a need to utilize the meal,” she said.

“If they can get something going and have a higher-end product, that’s all good.”

The $18.75-million capital injection to create Can Pro was put up by Victoria Park Capital Inc. (which manages provincial Investment Saskatchewan funds), the Golden Opportunities Fund Inc. of Saskatoon, GrowthWorks Capital Ltd., Farm Credit Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Lahti remains as business head of MCN Bioproducts. MCN was founded by U of S animal science professors Henry Classen, Rex Newkirk and David Maenz, who remains MCN’s chief scientific officer.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007