Richardson to take food innovation downtown

Artist’s rendition of the planned Richardson Innovation Centre in Winnipeg. (Graphic courtesy Richardson International)

Canadian grain and agrifood firm Richardson International plans to marshal its food research and product development crews in a new downtown Winnipeg space.

The privately-held, Winnipeg-based company announced Wednesday it will put up over $30 million to build what it calls the Richardson Innovation Centre, a four-story, 62,000-square foot facility to go up a block east of its head office on Lombard Avenue.

The centre is envisioned as “a training facility for our employees and customers and an education centre for food science students and the culinary community,” said Chuck Cohen, Richardson’s senior vice-president for technology.

“As a Winnipeg-based company, we look forward to bringing our customers, suppliers and partners from around the globe to this centre to showcase our products and capabilities and provide them with a rich experience in a very unique setting.”

The new centre is expected to house Richardson’s food development team, product development suites, analytical laboratory and a culinary test and demonstration kitchen.

That includes food and technology researchers now working in “nooks and crannies” at the company’s facilities across the Prairies, Richardson CEO Curt Vossen said during a press conference Wednesday.

Based on the “current scope” of Richardson’s food R+D work, that’s expected to include about 100 people at first, with capacity for double the staff level, he said.

The centre will boast a “cutting-edge” microbiology lab and an “extensive” quality analysis area to support the company’s quality assurance and food safety groups. Its office areas are expected to offer room for expansion to focus on innovations such as robotics and automation in food packaging and processing.

Positioning these departments in the same space “will optimize research, analytical and educational activities and facilitate the efficient development of truly innovative products,” the company said in a release.

R+D work needs a “modern platform for testing solutions, troubleshooting issues and exploring new ideas as they relate to market needs and evolving customer taste profiles,” Vossen said in the release.

To test raw products’ derivatives or to create “entirely new” product streams, the company’s technical capabilities “must be backed by the right technical facilities,” he said.

The company also expects to use the centre for collaborative work with Winnipeg-based institutions such as the University of Manitoba, Red River College and Cigi (the Canadian International Grains Institute), among others, Cohen said.

Having the centre available will allow researchers to discuss ideas, exchange information and examine upcoming food trends face-to-face on a day-to-day basis, Vossen said.

Asked about federal funding recently made available for research into plant-based protein sources through the Protein Industries Canada (PIC) supercluster — in which Richardson is already participating — he said the company’s investment in the new centre will go ahead regardless of participation from “any public entity.”

If, however, there are programs in which the new centre can participate, the company will research those for a possible fit, he said.

Richardson’s food processing operations include four oilseed crushing, processing and packaging plants in Canada and oat mills in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

The company’s farm-level research operations include its Kelburn Farm just south of Winnipeg and its new Bennett Farm near Regina. It also backed the establishment of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in 2006 at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Construction on the Richardson Innovation Centre site is set to begin this month for completion by the spring of 2020, Richardson said. –– Network

curt vossen
Kiev — Severe drought across half of Ukraine has hit winter sowing and could sharply reduce the country's 2016 wheat harvest, a senior state weather forecaster said on Monday. The drought, in which the central Dnipropetrovsk region suffered its driest autumn in 50 years, could lead to a 20 per cent year-on-year fall in the wheat harvest, hitting exports from the world's sixth-largest wheat exporter. Farmers have completed the sowing of winter wheat for next year's harvest, seeding only 86 per cent of the initially expected area because weeks of dry weather left fields without enough moisture for germination, according to government data. "We are not expecting a good wheat harvest. It is clear that next year's wheat harvest will be much smaller (than in 2015)," Tetyana Adamenko, the head of the agriculture department at Ukraine's state weather centre, told Reuters. UkrAgroConsult consultancy sees the harvest reaching around 19 million tonnes in 2016, allowing Ukraine to export about 10 million tonnes of wheat in the 2016/17 season. Ukraine harvested 24 million tonnes of wheat this year and plans to ship abroad 16.5 million tonnes of the commodity in the 2015/16 season which runs from July to June, according to a USDA October forecast. The Ukrainian agriculture ministry has said 3.5 million hectares or 55 per cent of the seeded area had sprouted as of Oct. 29 and only 69 per cent of this was in good or satisfactory condition. It said 2.8 million hectares had yielded no seedlings so far. Adamenko said that relatively warm weather in the first week of November could expand the sprouted area but its chance of surviving though the winter would be "very small." "Only a global weather anomaly could improve the situation," she said, adding that some leading Ukrainian grain production areas such as Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolayiv and Zaporizhya had seen no rain for around three months. UkrAgroConsult said that the area under winter wheat could total 5.7 to 5.8 million hectares this year. "The last time an area this size was sown with winter wheat was in 2006 and 2004, when the gross crop amounted to 13.8 and 16.5 million tonnes respectively," it said in a report. Agriculture Minister Oleksiy Pavlenko told Reuters last month that Ukraine's winter wheat acreage could shrink by more than 10 per cent due to dry weather this autumn. He also said that the uncertainty over winter wheat sowing and concern about the volume of the next year's harvest was the main reason for a delay in signing a grain export memorandum for the 2015/16 season. Traders said last month that the ministry and traders' unions had failed to sign a memorandum to determine the amount of grain available for export in the 2015/16 season, adding to market uncertainty.

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