Film director Cameron backing Saskatchewan organic pea plant

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Verdient’s James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron and PIC’s Greg and Olivia Yuel (l-r) announce the opening of the Verdient plant at Vanscoy. (Golden Media photo by Chad Reynold)

A major new pulse plant has set up shop southwest of Saskatoon with plans to help back development of pulse-based foods and mentor organic growers — and bringing with it a pair of unusually high-profile investors.

Verdient Foods on Monday announced the opening of a pulse food processing plant at Vanscoy, Sask., with plans for gradual capacity increases to over 160,000 tonnes as the facility takes on “additional product lines.”

However, what brought the unusually heavy media coverage to Monday’s announcement was the plant’s operating company, PMC Management, which manages several processing ventures spearheaded by film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron.

Cameron, originally from northern Ontario, is best known as the director of films such as The Terminator, Avatar and Aliens, while Amis Cameron has acted in films such as The Usual Suspects and Cameron’s Titanic.

The financial terms of the Camerons’ investment in Verdient, in partnership with Saskatoon-based PIC Investment Group and Whitecap Dakota First Nation, were not released Monday.

Verdient on Monday also announced it has signed a four-year research contract with the Saskatoon-based Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, working with other food companies to develop value-added organic products using Verdient’s pulse ingredients.

The Food Centre, a not-for-profit partnership between the province, the Saskatchewan Food Processors Association and the University of Saskatchewan, includes pulse processing among its specialties, helping develop products for uses such as meat and cheese substitutes, baking ingredients, breakfast cereals and nutritional bars.

Verdient said it expects the plant to become the largest organic pea protein fractionation plant in North America once fully operational. The company plans to use “dry” fractionation to isolate and concentrate protein, starch and fibre from pulse crops for use in specialty flours and other products.

The Camerons said Monday they also plan to work with Saskatchewan farmers in a mentorship program to “provide a profitable structure to keep younger generations of Canadian farmers engaged in organic farming.”

“For years, we’ve been on a mission to help the world eat healthy food grown by farmers who have chosen to farm organically,” said Amis Cameron.

The Camerons’ related ventures include the Plant Power Task Force campaign; Muse School, a Los Angeles-based private school devoted to “eco-literacy;” the Red Carpet Green Dress fashion campaign; and Food Forest Organics, a New Zealand market supplied by Cameron Family Farms in the Wairarapa region.

PIC Investment Group’s portfolio also includes stakes in water treatment company ClearTech, hydroponic greenhouse firm Ecobain Gardens, mustard processor MPT and Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems. CEO Greg Yuel said PIC’s “long-term perspective matches our partner in this opportunity perfectly.”

The Verdient plant also won’t be the only pulse player in Vanscoy, which since 1995 has been home to lentil and canary seed processor and exporter Prairie Pulse, northeast of the Verdient site on Highway 7.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, attending Monday’s announcement, said “the Camerons’ decision to move forward with this project in Saskatchewan is a tribute to the province’s grain producers, our growing food processing industry, and our world-leading research community.” — Network

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