Harvey Dann, a not-retired Manitoba marketer and key figure in the Western Canadian livestock industry for many years is looking for some progressive thinking farmers to invest a few dollars into learning about the quality of the grains, oilseeds and pulse crops they produce.
By knowing quality and establishing benchmarks on a wide range of quality parameters in crops such as wheat, oats, barley, canola, peas, flax, corn and soybeans, Dann says it opens the door to accessing and supplying markets looking for quality grains, oilseeds and pulse crops — ideally markets willing to pay a premium price for premium quality.
“There are markets there now — food processors and bakeries for example — looking for certain nutrient specifications,” says Dann. “But as farmers, we need to know what we have, and need to know how to apply agronomic practices to produce quality grains. And that starts with a thorough analysis.”
Dann says producing crops with certain quality characteristic is appealing not only to the human food industry, but to animal agriculture as well, including beef, hogs, dairy and poultry sectors.
It could lead to producing designer foods and feeds — human food produced with specific health and quality characteristics and livestock feeds that benefit animal health and improve feed efficiency.
Thinking about the old adage “you are what you eat” — it all comes back to the quality characteristics of the crops produced. The objective is to produce crops with high quality characteristics, that translates into healthier foods and feeds for humans as well as all classes of livestock — and what company today isn’t interested in grabbing more of market share with claims of a healthier food product.
TESTING FOR FIELD CROPS
Dann has connected with a U.S. testing facility — the Health Research Institute (HRI), a lab in Fairfield, Iowa — that has developed the methodology and technology to perform nutrient density analysis. Nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. In the very simplest of terms analysis of nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, pulse crops, and oilseeds is a measure of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
But by using sophisticated testing technology, it goes way beyond that at HRI, says Dr. John Fagan, one of the founders of the Health Research Institute. “We have a state-of-the-art lab that allows us to use the most advanced analytical technologies to develop Full Spectrum Nutrient Density Analysis,” he says.
With technology they will be able to take a wheat or barley sample, for example, and measure as many as 4000 distinct compounds. The extensive testing can measure desired quality characteristics in any crop as well as any undesirable elements such as pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, heavy metals and others. If you’re targeting a market that interested in grains that are pesticide free, for example, then that test is important information as well.
“Developing a nutrient density test for these major crops will provide farmers with an valuable marketing tool,” says Fagan. “If there is a market, a processor, looking for specific quality characteristics, the nutrient density analysis will show processors what is available. ”
HERE’S THE DEAL
HRI has done the research and developed the specific Full Spectrum Nutrient Density Analysis for foods or components such as beef and chicken and even some vegetable crops, but the specific tests for major field crops such as wheat, barley, oats, canola, corn and soybeans still need to be developed. And that research is costly. Once the initial research and test is developed for wheat and canola, for example, future testing of samples to measure nutrient density factors is relatively inexpensive.
So Harvey Dann is looking for farmers to invest in covering the cost of research to develop the test for key Western Canadian crops such as wheat, oats, barley, canola, peas, flax, corn and soybeans.
He’s looking for six participants to invest $U.S.1,375 in each crop test — six to fund the wheat test and six to fund the research for the barley test and so on. He’s starting with eight major crops but testing could be expanded to include durum and gmo and non-gmo varieties of various crops, too — that would just mean more participants.
Dann has already received a commitment from 20 farmer investors, including a crop consultant from New Zealand interested in the measuring nutrient density — the quality factors — in various crops.
Participants in this first round would be eligible for discounts on other testing at HRI and of course they would have access to all test results which will form the foundation of a data base.
Dann is hoping to get participants and funds lined up so samples can be collected from crops produced in the 2021 crop year.
For more information on the Nutrient Density Testing, contact Harvey Dann at 1-800-665-2494 or his cell at 1-701-213-8246 or email: [email protected]
“I believe there are some real opportunities to learn more about crop quality characteristics that will help us as farmers to access higher value markets,” he says. “We’ll start with these major crops. Surely there has to be at least 60 farmers out there in the world interested in crop quality.”
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]