‘The real deal’
Belle River soy plant welcomes federal government investment in research and innovation
The Atlantic Soy Corp. plant in Belle River is hoping to double its production by tapping into the latest variety of oilseeds.
These oilseeds would be varieties best suited for growing in Island soil and ones designed to meet the growing demand of consumers in international markets.
The Belle River plant got a big boost in this direction on Friday when Cardigan MP and federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay showed up to announce his government is investing $3.7 million into the Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance (ECODA).
There are 21 projects overall and of these activities, 10 projects worth $733,000 will be conducted in P.E.I.
“Soybean is the real deal here on P.E.I.,’’ said Murray MacDonald, manager of the Atlantic Soy plant. “We just need to bring it to the next level like (they’ve done) with other stable agricultural crops in P.E.I. over the years.’’ Soybean production has more than tripled in P.E.I. between 2008 and 2016, from between 10,000 and 14,000 acres to close to 60,000 acres.
MacAulay said it’s the fastest growing agricultural market in eastern Canada.
“I can tell you our soybean is certainly sought after in Japan and Vietnam. They want more,’’ the minister said. “It’ll be two years since the first shipment of soybeans left our shores for China. I was just in China on one of the largest agricultural trade missions along with Soy Canada, (and) the Chinese minister of agriculture made a point of telling me that he wants more soy.’’ Research and development is currently taking place at Agriculture Canada’s research facility in Harrington.
“Our team in Harrington (is) working on new varieties of soybeans, canola and peas that are adapted to our soil and our growing season,’’ MacAulay said. (That includes) disease-resistant canola, using oilseed in crop rotation, developing new hemp varieties and improving soil health.’’
MacDonald said Island farmers are getting very good at growing soybeans but have to produce what the market demands.
“With these new varieties, I think there is definitely going to be more opportunities because when we move into a higher level of where this product will go . . . it’ll be a different marketing level so, in return, it should put more money in farmers’ pockets, which is what we need to survive.’’
The one challenge, MacDonald said, with opening new markets, is the challenge it presents in terms of packaging the product. It’s currently shipped in paper bags, tote bags and in bulk. “The company I work for will supply me with what I need to get this product to market,’’ MacDonald said.