By Cole Parkinson
As plant proteins become more and more popular around the globe, a local business is hoping to seize the opportunity to bring in more like-minded businesses to the area.
A delegation from Rowland Farms was in Municipal District of Taber council chambers during their regular meeting on May 14 to discuss a few of their ideas.
“We are looking forward to working together with the M.D. on some potential economic development opportunities. There are some really interesting things happening in two fields of our business that may lead to the attraction of some other companies to establish some processing capabilities in southern Alberta in close proximity to some of the production that we do on the grains, seeds, oilseeds and pulses, also some derivatives of the hemp industry,” said Keith Jones, general manager and CFO of Rowland Farms.
One particular interest from Rowland Farms is the ever-expanding plant protein industry which the M.D. of Taber has shown support for.
“I know council is very aware of the opportunities in the plant protein space. The plant protein market place is expanding. Every year we attend the Natural Health Products Expo in Anaheim and the interest in protein ingredients specifically from peas is huge. It continues to grow and you may be aware of the Beyond Meat patties at A and W as they have moved into sausage patties as they continue to expand their offering. There are a whole series of companies making investments into trying to take advantage of the opportunities as consumers look for alternatives not just to animal proteins but also from soy protein,” added Jones. “We are in discussion with a couple different companies who have indicated an interest in building some manufacturing capacity in southern Alberta. We have appreciated the opportunity to explore some of these opportunities in forms like Protein Industries Canada and with the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta. We think there are some pretty exciting opportunities coming up both in terms of pea protein fractionation, hemp protein fractionation and some other plant proteins. As those opportunities start to develop, we just want to indicate our willingness to engage in dialogue with the M.D. to see how we may work together to attract some of these global food manufacturing companies to establish themselves in southern Alberta and hopefully the M.D. of Taber.”
Rowland Farms was also one of the companies to first jump on the hemp bandwagon as they started farming the product as soon as it was legal to do so. Since that time, they have continued to explore different hemp opportunities.
“We also are seeing opportunities in downstream processing of hemp, in other parts of the hemp plant as well in terms of processing the straw. The latest craze is the CBD where cannabis companies are looking at the ability to use hemp crops as a source of phytocannabinoids. Everyone knows THC is the one that gets you high on the cannabis side but it’s not hemp unless it is below 0.3 THC which is not intoxicating. An entirely new market place has been established for other cannabinoids that have health benefits and a whole series of products have come to market. In fact, Amazon.com has over 4,000 hemp products with CBD included in them,” said Jones.
With multiple economic development possibilities brought forward, council suggested talking to their director of planning and economic development, Kirk Hughes.
“We know that in this area we can grow all sorts of things that can’t be grown elsewhere. We have a lot of potential opportunities for economic development in the municipality,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.
While the M.D. are no strangers to partnerships in furthering economic development, it was asked how it would be approached moving forward.
“When you say working together what do you envision that to look like?” asked Coun. Jen Crowson. “I think it is just helpful for us to know what you want that to look like in moving forward. We all promote economic development in our area but I just wanted to know what you are looking for.”
While no set schedule for how to proceed has been laid out, Rowland Farms was open to proceed in various ways.
“There is a whole range of possible things, we don’t have any specific asks of the M.D. right now. In my experience with economic development, it is about getting critical mass of an offer that encourages companies to think this is a good place to do it. One of the concerns was, on the plant protein side, about a month and a half ago Maple Leaf Foods decided to pivot off their animal protein strategy and made a major $300 million investment in plant protein and they decided to do it in Illinois instead of in Canada. It creates a call to action for Canadian companies and Canada government at all levels to work together,” explained Jones. “We have had one extraction company in the U.S. that is very interested in doing something here. We have had one visit with them but we haven’t talked about specifics at all. They are planning to come back here this summer.”
With that in mind, Crowson added Hughes would be a benefit to have in those talks. Others on council were receptive to moving forward on economic development.
“As a council, we have been open to working with other companies. We have seen them but we have to look at our hamlets, our water situation, our wastewater situation and those are all things in terms of how far of the race are we trying to get,” said Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga. “We are open, just as you’ve heard from our new premier that Alberta is open, so we want to figure out ways that are beneficial to all.”
The delegation also wanted to discuss potential land deals which council elected to move into closed session for.
Out of closed session, council carried a motion unanimously to narrow down a date to discuss public lands.