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Would faba beans fit in your crop rotation?

Faba beans have potential, but markets are still feeling facing growing pains

As diseases take a bite out of western Canadian crops, farmers are looking for new rotation options.

“Faba bean is not susceptible to root rot. Quinoa is not susceptible to fusarium. So it’s two crops that we can grow over here that may fit well into our rotation,” says Brad Goudy, owner of Goudy Ag Products and a grain marketing consultant based out of Melfort, Sask.

Growing new crops is one thing. Marketing them is quite another. While Goudy sees potential in both the faba bean and quinoa markets for growers, there’s plenty of work involved to reach that potential.

Goudy isn’t a broker. He explains he charges clients an annual fee for his services. He also runs a hedging course to help his clients improve their canola and wheat marketing chops. Goudy started consulting three years ago, with 60 clients. At that time, 80 per cent or more of his work was oats. He worked with oat buyers, growers, shortlines, and Canadian National to get oats to market.

(If you’re wondering why the Goudy name seems familiar it could be because Brad’s dad, Ken, developed Treflan for use on rapeseed in the 1960s and 1970s. He also worked toward producing generic glyphosate for the Canadian market once it went off-patent.)

Many of his clients grew high tannin faba beans. Since then, that market has dried up, he says, and they’re focusing on the feed market now. “A lot of guys are interested in growing them, but the big thing is finding a stable market.”

One of Goudy’s buyers was interested in faba beans as hog feed, but needed a steady supply. Goudy started working on a contract during the Crop Production Show in January 2016.

Goudy started signing up faba bean growers in the Parkland. He realized he’d need more farmers to fill the contract so he organized meetings with interested growers from east of Yorkton to Lloydminster. “It looks like we’ve found another 60 guys who want to join in with us and produce fabas.”

Since then Goudy says he’s been talking to other companies looking for a steady supply of faba beans for their feed rations. That’s allowed him to sign up more farmers and increase his current clients’ faba bean acreage. It also spreads out the production area, he adds.

Farmers can certainly grow faba beans on spec, as they do with most crops. But Goudy is asking growers to sign up for his services so he can manage the market. He says he wants to create a win/win for buyers and growers.

“I don’t want to be ignorant or seen as mean or whatever. But there is real opportunity to over-produce this and blow the whole thing up before we really get the benefit out of it.”

He did catch some flak from farmers who were already supplying local barns during one of the meetings. But he says he’s trying to organize farmers, not steal their business. If a hog barn doesn’t have a guaranteed steady supply of faba beans, they aren’t likely to get into them, Goudy says. Switching faba beans in and out of rations doesn’t work well for the animals.

At interview time in mid-February, Goudy was still looking for a few more farmers, and still getting calls from companies looking for faba beans.

Goudy had just returned from a faba bean conference in North Dakota at interview time. North Dakota pulse growers are running into similar problems with root rot as Saskatchewan growers, and are looking to faba beans as a way to keep pulses in their rotations.

He’d hoped to suss out an opportunity to ship faba beans south of the border. But the AGT flour fractionation plant in North Dakota isn’t taking Canadian faba beans right now.

“It’s a very small market at this point.” AGT is encouraging pet food companies and others to try faba beans because of the nutritional and taste qualities, he adds.

Goudy has been talking to people at Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), who has been incorporating pulses into flour.

“They’ve had a number of companies express a lot of interest in it. And what they’ve said is the (faba bean) flour is 50 per cent higher in protein than pea or lentil flour,” says Goudy. Faba bean flour also has a milder taste than other pulse flours, he adds.

Another plus is that the smaller low tannin varieties work for fractionation, Goudy says. Most of the tannin is in the hull, he explains.

Still, food processors, and Goudy himself, are concerned about favism. Favism is a hereditary blood disorder that switches on when people are exposed to various triggers, including the vicine in faba beans. It affects a small part of the population but Goudy thinks it’s the biggest area of concern for the food consumption market.

“I don’t want to see us forging ahead on this and then find out we’re creating a problem or a liability even.”

Whether plant breeders or food processors can remove the vicine remains to be seen.

Goudy would like to take a closer look at flour fractionation once they’ve grown faba bean feed acres. Goudy’s ideas right now include partnering with someone to build a plant, partnering with an existing plant that will produce faba bean flour, or working with a plant in an export market that is already using faba bean fractions. Moose Jaw and Brandon are building pulse flour processing plants. Goudy says they’re not planning to mill faba beans yet, as the acreage is too small.

The market is in the interesting stage, Goudy says, where there’s lots of potential. If the industry keeps promoting faba beans over the next two or three years, he thinks there will be a lot more opportunity for faba bean flour.

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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