U of S buys Sask. feed mill for research

The University of Saskatchewan has finalized a deal to buy a North Battleford feed mill as the site of a new national-scale feed research facility and license some of its production capacity to agrifood firm Cargill.

The Canadian Feed Technology Research Facility, a $12.6 million project announced Monday, is expected to research, develop and commercialize new and better high-value animal feeds from low-value crops and from byproducts of biofuels production such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Renovation of the feed mill as a research facility is expected to begin in July, with the new facility expected to open in late summer or early fall of 2010.

To generate revenue for facility maintenance and research, the U of S said it has licensed part of the feed mill’s “industrial capability” to the Canadian animal nutrition wing of Cargill for commercial feed processing and toll feed processing services.

Cargill on Tuesday announced a deal to sell its Swift Current, Sask. feed mill to another hog production company, citing Cargill’s “development of manufacturing capabilities” at North Battleford.

Funding for the facility is also coming from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the province and industry.

“This new research centre will benefit both animal and human health and help make the U of S an international leader in feeds processing research and commercialization,” said Karen Chad, the university’s acting vice-president for research.

“It will advance undergraduate and graduate student training programs and also provide training opportunities for producers and feed processors. More than 25 researchers and 30 graduate students from many disciplines will use the facility.”

Project leader Bernard Laarveld said the feed mill provides an “excellent” research base for the U of S because there’s significant space to accommodate the “full range” of activity from laboratory to pilot plant to industrial-scale research. The U of S said it will also offer contract research opportunities to the private sector.

Research cluster

“Researchers are extremely keen to use this centre as it will advance research in many areas that include crop breeding for feed quality traits, reduced antibiotic use, better livestock nutrition, improved animal health and product safety, feed delivery of vaccines for disease control, environmental protection, and higher-value commodity crops,” Laarveld said.

New feeds produced at the mill will be used for animal feeding research at the U of S and elsewhere, he added.

The new centre is to enhance and support the U of S feeds research cluster, which includes the Crop Development Centre, the Feeds Innovation Institute, the Prairie Swine Centre, the Poultry Centre, the Beef Research Station, the new Dairy Innovation Centre, the Prairie Aquaculture Research Centre and the Canadian Light Source.

The announcement Monday follows a court dispute over the university’s bid for the mill, brought by Agracity Ltd., a Saskatoon-based sister company to Farmers of North America (FNA).

The U of S has had a bid on the table since last August to buy the feed mill owned by Stomp Pork Farms for $3.25 million. The Humboldt, Sask.-based hog production company made the deal with the U of S while Stomp was restructuring under creditor protection and didn’t close on Agracity’s original $3 million offer.

Meyers Norris Penny, the firm monitoring Stomp’s restructuring, said it preferred the U of S offer to Agracity’s increased $3.3 million bid, because the university offered up to $200,000 in non-refundable deposits if its deal were to tank.

The provincial Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon granted its approval for the mill’s sale to the U of S back in October, rejecting Agracity’s call for an adjournment while it sought financing for its bid. The court ruled that the “uncertainty and risk” of waiting for Agracity would be of no benefit to Stomp’s creditors.

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