Thursday, October 19, 2017
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Start in Sturgeon Blog

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Welcome to the Start in Sturgeon Blog. Check here often for great articles about the County's Economic Development and other relevant issues.


New Prairie Farmer Generation Leanne

In Gibbons, Alberta, you’ll find a unique family who has converted the family hog business into a successful major grain operation called Kalco Farms.

Mike Kalisvaart is the son of a Dutch immigrant, Jack Kalisvaart, who came to Canada in 1969. With training as a dairy farmer in the Netherlands, he started a pig farm in Canada due to the capital requirements and the family started officially farming in 1979.  Fast forward to today, and Mike works with his brother, sister, and brother-in-law to produce canola, wheat, oats, yellow peas and barley. Interestingly, their grain operation in Gibbons is one of the highest rated area in Western Canada for canola yields.

The main farm site, 10 km from his family home, operates a large grain handling facility with 16 hopper bins that hold 350 tonnes each. Eight additional bins hold another 2,400 tonnes. An addition of 10,000 sq. feet of shop space includes room for their office and boardroom, which employs 20 full-time and part-time staff. 

In the early 2000’s, the County classified the area as part of the Heartland Industrial zone which has ensued in major energy companies purchasing hundreds of acres east of their farm. This changing landscape did not affect their business and they even rented land from those companies to continue farming them. Their expansion plans came into focus and today they plant on 13,000 acres with 25,000 tonnes of product being harvested each year. Mike stated that, “Soil conditions are very healthy in the County. A sufficient nutrient supply and small population of insects has definitely created favorable conditions.”

Technology Adoption

A GPS system enables them to focus on a precision farming plan to take advantage of fertilizer placement and variable rate seeding. In addition, the use of tablets with specialized software collects data from the field during spraying, seeding and harvesting. These processes result in the ability to analyze data such as field application records, weather, fertilizer use, production analysis for areas of continued improvement, and planning that begins a year in advance.

Easy Access to Amenities and Infrastructure

Easy access to amenities and infrastructure in Sturgeon County has offered Kalco Farms strength in its central access. In the last fiscal year, with a 70-80 per cent exportation rate to grain terminals, Kalco Farms shipped out 25,000 tonnes of grain. Their peas are utilized in China and India, and their wheat is utilized in Japan, China and the U.S.

Mike said, “I am proud of our family’s farming traditions for nearly 50 years in Sturgeon County. My father took a big chance when he started, but his strength imparted an entrepreneurial spirit for our family that will continue to instill growth and success for our business for many years to come.”


Place for your stuff Leanne

I remember when I got my first job as an Economic Development Officer in a small town in Saskatchewan a few years back, I managed to pack all my belongings into little Toyota Echo as a minimalist bachelor and made it all the way to Regina.

Fast forward to 2014, after being married with two children, we needed two trips with a 14-foot U-Haul cargo truck to get all our belongings to the home we presently live in – a stark contrast to my moving days while I was a bachelor. Feeling the burden of being saddled with “stuff”, my wife and I switched to purge mode. We got rid of unneeded items on Kijiji, at Goodwill and the Edmonton Recycling Depot. It really made a difference - uncluttering our home, freeing up more space and reducing the amount of cleaning. Purging can indeed simplify ones’ lifestyle but sometimes there are legitimate reasons to invest in storage.

The self storage industry in one of the fastest growing industries in North America. It’s no surprise because we have a lot of stuff, and we like to keep it. Self-storage can be a wise financial and personal move when:

  • Moving, buying, or selling a home (e.g. If you’re moving for your job and don’t yet have a place to live.)
  • Paying for a bit of extra space (if you have trouble fitting into your space and it doesn’t make sense to upgrade your home.)
  • Protecting an investment (antique cars, collections etc.)
  • For business purposes (i.e. small business owners such as contractors and lawn care companies)

Place For Your Stuff is a locally owned self storage facility in Pro North Industrial Park I visited early this year. The facility is located 5 minutes north of St. Albert, 10 minutes south of Morinville, or 15 minutes west of the Garrison Military Base. 

Place For Your Stuff has 854 storage units in 5, 10 or 20 feet sizes with interior LED lighting at lower rates compared to similar units in Morinville, St. Albert and Edmonton – check out their website for current deals. One unique aspect of this facility is the convenience it provides customers – online registration and payments, and 24/7 gates access to your personal belongings. Take a video tour of the facility below.

Jakub, the onsite manager gave me a brief tour and I must say I was very impressed – the site was clear of snow, clean and visibly well maintained. It was also secured with motion sensors, cameras and a computer controlled gate access for additional security. Place for your stuff provides 5, and 10-foot storage units for your contents. 

Standard 5' Unit (5.0x8.0x9.0)  Standard 10' Unit (10.0x8.0x9.0) 
   
 This sized unit 360 cu/ft will fit appliances, furniture, boxes, bed set, clothes, lawn equipment. Similar to the contents that would fit a 8 foot moving truck.
 This sized unit 720 cu/ft will fit appliances, furniture, boxes, a snowblower or motorbike. Similar to the contents of what would fit in a 10-foot moving truck.

You’ll also be glad to know that they are a member of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce in 2017. If you have an M2M discount card, you could get 10 percent off your storage fee! For more information on storage availability, contact Yakub at (587) 764-0119.

Place for your stuff makes us #SturgeonProud



From the farm to your plate Leanne

In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of consumer interest in local food – it’s fair to say that today, an increasing number of consumers think that local is the way to go whenever possible. If you ask people why they shop local, many reply that it’s fresher, has a smaller environmental footprint, supports the economy and creates jobs all along the food chain that links farm to fork.

I cannot deny the influence of the growing local food movement on my grocery shopping habits today – my eggs, meat, honey and some vegetables are all purchased from local producers in Sturgeon County. The difference in quality of produce from a local farm relative to a big chain store can be quite stark in some cases. Apart from taste, I enjoy the personal connection to the farms where crops and animals are produced. I certainly felt that way when I visited Cardiff Meat and Sausage early this October.

Located near Morinville, Cardiff Meat and Sausage is a licensed and inspected butcher shop owned and operated by Tony and Brenda Rustemeier; third generation livestock producers that specialize in all aspects of the beef industry from cow-calf and seed stock production to feedlot finishing and custom processing. Twenty-six years ago, the butcher shop began doing custom cutting and wrapping for local farmers and hunters and in recent years they have expanded their mandate to provide affordable, naturally raised, high quality beef direct  from their farm to local consumers.

Tony and Brenda note that they’ve seen a rise in demand from people looking for an alternative to mass-produced meat. The couple forms a growing number of livestock farmers across Canada who are breaking from the status quo and raising fewer animals, typically letting them graze on pasture. They tend to slaughter their animals in smaller abattoirs, and then sell the meat through a growing network of independent butchers or directly to consumers. 

Butchers have always been an important resource to any civilization from the humblest of villages to the most urban of cities. The art of the butcher has steadily evolved to become one of the world’s oldest and most respected professions. The local butcher was a major neighborhood fixture by the dawn of the 20th century. Today, most of them employ their trade at food processing companies and large supermarkets.

However, there remains a small pocket of neighborhood artisans that help us relive that nostalgia of simple times and a sense of connectedness with the food we eat. I admired them both as they worked in their little shop. Tony is a true artisan - with careful hands and a calm demeanor while Brenda pays keen attention to quality and customer service. With high standards for themselves as far as meat products go, the couple has grown a successful business with confidence in their craft developed over years of dedication.

Working in a custom shop where meat is often cut to customers’ orders means the workload varies from day to day and week to week. There are always new challenges, and frustrations, and yet as they cut different parts of different animals, the couple takes time to do it right.

                                                          

The animals are fed naturally

Though I didn’t visit the Rustemeier farm in the summer, I managed to get a picture of their animals grazing on the rolling grasslands of the County.

Their calves are born on pasture in April and May and then in the fall, they are weaned and fed through the winter on hay and oats green feed. When they mature to yearlings, they are moved back to pasture with a supplementary self-feed ration of grain. This results in a beef product that is rose colored, well marbled and intensely flavorful.

The Rustemeiers additionally use selective breeding to attain specific traits in their beef cattle. An example of a desired trait could be leaner meat or resistance to illness. To achieve the standard of “naturally raised beef”, the animals are raised without the consumption of growth hormones or antibiotics. That’s as close as one can get to the stringent standards of organic meat.

Great meat cuts for a variety of cooking

The animals are processed in a federally licensed abattoir before the Rustemeiers receive them for cutting and wrapping. Tony starts the process of dividing the carcass into sides, or quarters from which steaks and other subdivisions are derived. The beef products are generally classified AA to AAA grade, which is a very high quality category that is a juicy, tender cut of beef resilient in a variety of cooking methods; though, it should be noted that the cooking methods used for tender cuts of beef typically involve dry heat or direct flame, while tougher cuts of beef use moist heat cooking (e.g. slow cooking). 

The chart above shows the types of cuts you can get from a steer and the best cooking method type for each cut.

I would highly recommend Cardiff Meat and Sausage for their locally produced beef – the quality of their product is simply outstanding!

 If you’re interested in dropping off game animals (elk, deer etc.) as well, call the Rustemeiers at 780-973-5998 or 780-908-5998. The butcher shop is located on 24512 Township Rd 554 (Cardiff Road) Sturgeon County.

Cardiff Meat and Sausage makes us #SturgeonProud



Turning waste into value Leanne

Tires that are no longer suitable for use on vehicles due to wear or irreparable damage are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste, due to the large volume produced, their durability, and the fact that they contain a number of components that are ecologically problematic. Approximately six million tires are recycled per year in Alberta and a Sturgeon company called Eco-Flex Rubber Solutions is an important link in the recycled rubber manufacturing chain.

Eco-flex Rubber Solutions is a company founded by CEO, Alan Champagne in 1992. The 24 year old company is an industry leader in manufacturing high value end use recycled rubber products that are used for industrial, municipal, commercial, agricultural and residential applications.







Eco-flex manufacturers a range of products within a 35,000 square feet manufacturing facility situated 30 minutes north of Edmonton. The company was featured on Today in America by Terry Bradshaw. This short clip will give you a great overview of the business.







Recycled rubber products have a range of advantages that makes it a popular choice for high traffic environments. Now with a selection of colors, patterns and textures, these products are also finding their way into residential interior and exterior applications.

There are three main lines of product that Eco-flex Rubber Solutions manufactures and sells:



• Automotive products which include parking stops, speed bumps, rumble mats and sound barriers. See list of products



• Commercial and residential products include rubber flooring, yard tiles, stair treads and landscaping edging. See list of products

• Industrial products include rig and floor mats, safety walkways and ramps. See list of products

So what makes rubber a superior choice for each of these applications?

Durability is often mentioned as a major advantage of rubber - it’s strong, tough and resilient in a variety of conditions. They do not crumb or flake apart over time and so they tend to have better longevity.



 



Low Maintenance: Rubber can be very easy to take care of and is generally stain resistant.



Water resistant: Rubber is nonporous, meaning it is resilient against mildew and mold. This makes rubber ideal for wet environments or areas prone to moisture.



 



Soft and pliable: Rubber is a comfortable surface for areas where people must stand for long periods of time. The cushioning reduces the occurrence of fatigue and foot injury. Rubber parking stops for example, are more forgiving when you misjudge and drive over them.

Sound properties: Rubber can minimize sound between floors in a building. Because of its elasticity, it can reduce noise from walking to moving heavy loads.

Fire and burn resistance: Rubber is resistant to burns left from cigarette butts and other small heat sources.

Range of colors: There are five colors and a variety of patterns available. The growing popularity of rubber flooring for example, is inspiring new designs by architects.

Choice of textures: The surface of rubber mats can be manufactured with raised dimples, studs, and other complex textures that enhance traction and minimize slips in wet areas.

So, before you spend your money on new flooring, take a look at these advantages again and see the products for yourself. If you’re interested in learning more about the Eco-flex product lines for a specific application or require a quote for a project, contact them by phone at 780 961 3229 or by email projects@eco-flex.com. You may also visit them at 57425 RR253, Sturgeon County, AB or purchase their products from Burnco Landscape Centers in Alberta.

Eco-Flex makes us #SturgeonProud


Soaring through economic turbulence Leanne

My four year old son Sam, has an unusual fascination with aircraft and counts them as they are flying by. I know that Sam would’ve loved to join me on a visit to a helicopter maintenance company at Villeneuve Airport but he would’ve been quite interruptive with requests for a ride, so Sam had to wait for an appropriate opportunity to see a helicopter up-close.

Avialta Helicopter Maintenance introduced me to a whole new industry that I didn’t know much about. When I think of helicopters, the obvious activities come to mind - site seeing, heli-skiing, firefighting and search and rescue operations. But I wasn’t aware of some of the specialized uses for them. Helicopter are involved in new and expansion projects within several business industries across Western Canada such as mining exploration, logging, equipment moves, aerial construction and power line construction. These are lucrative markets that companies like Avialta have targeted since they came into existence 26 years ago.

Avialta Helicopter Maintenance is a Transport Canada approved helicopter repair and overhaul maintenance shop, performing routine and major maintenance and aircraft customizations including, interior, paint, avionics, optional equipment installations and maintenance level composite repairs.The company also leases a fleet of over 30 aircraft to various industries across Canada for specialized applications such as those I previously mentioned.

The helicopter industry around Avialta

The helicopter industry has historically been built on providing access to remote areas and is sustained by clients that work in the field. In Alberta, helicopters plays an essential role in the natural resource based economy and so the slowdown in exploration and delays on major capital projects caused by low energy prices has increased competition within the helicopter industry to a significant level. While lower profit margins are squeezing some operators out of the business, Avialta has developed well-honed survival skills to navigate their businesses through seasonal and cyclical upsets. Even though some aircraft owners and airlines perform maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in-house, many more prefer outsourcing them because they have chosen to focus their attention on core business operations, as opposed to MRO. This area of opportunity has expanded over the years and contributed to Avialta’s success.


The helicopter industry around Avialta

The helicopter industry has historically been built on providing access to remote areas and is sustained by clients that work in the field. In Alberta, helicopters plays an essential role in the natural resource based economy and so the slowdown in exploration and delays on major capital projects caused by low energy prices has increased competition within the helicopter industry to a significant level. While lower profit margins are squeezing some operators out of the business, Avialta has developed well-honed survival skills to navigate their businesses through seasonal and cyclical upsets. Even though some aircraft owners and airlines perform maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in-house, many more prefer outsourcing them because they have chosen to focus their attention on core business operations, as opposed to MRO. This area of opportunity has expanded over the years and contributed to Avialta’s success.

Avialta Helicopter Maintenance was purchased by Rod Wood in 1985 when it was a small two-person operation located at the tiny St. Albert airfield just north of Edmonton at ProNorth Industrial Park. While he may not have ever anticipated challenging the giants of aviation maintenance, Rod had a desire to grow his small firm quickly but steadily.

Today, the company consists of 18 employees that range from aircraft maintenance engineers, office staff and support workers at their maintenance facility within Villeneuve Airport. This facility is 19,000 sq. ft. comprising a hangar space, paint shop, part sales area, and component shop with an adjoining office structure.

Although current economic conditions continue to challenge the survival skills of many helicopter companies, Avialta is well-diversified and specialized enough to weather the slowdown across the energy industry. With the province kicking off its forest fire season earlier than it traditionally has, Avialta could have a busy helicopter leasing season ahead. I’d like to thank Paul Horvartis and Avialta for giving me a tour of their facility – Avialta is definitely an important contributor to the economy of Sturgeon County and they certainly make us all #SturgeonProud!

Contact Avialta Helicopter Maintenance at 780.460.1800 or check out their website at www.avialta.com



SOIL + FAMILY FARMERS + YOU = NOURISHED PLANET
With the summer season coming to an end, I took my last visit to Peas on Earth organic farm in the Sturgeon Valley area. I’ve driven by the farm a few times on my way to work, wondering what vegetables make up the perfect rows of yellow, purple and different shades of green that dot the landscape. It’s quite a fascinating to see these colors change with the season. Each row is a different colour, and combined they create a beautiful patchwork quilt. I wish I could use time lapse photography to capture what I’m trying to describe. Peas on Earth is simply a terrific place to be…close your eyes, enjoy the calmness and gentle breeze around you…open your eyes and feast them on the vivid colors of peas, spinach, squash, zucchini, greens, corn, beets, carrots – yum!

Photos taken by Margaret Bose –Johnson of Kitchen Frau

The Farm

Peas on Earth Organic Farm is nestled in the plains of Sturgeon County, a 65 acre certified organic market garden, owned and operated by Eric and Ruby Chen. Before establishing Peas on Earth in 2000, Eric operated a small farm around north Edmonton. Eric comes from an agricultural family while Ruby has a background in business – these two couldn’t be better suited for running this successful venture together. When the couple initially bought the land from its previous owners, it was an empty field with no trees. Eric and Ruby saw a ripe opportunity for investment, starting with a green house and then expanding into acres of organic crops. The couple are looking to expand the farm and exploring the idea of using the log building on their farm for business retreats and weddings – not a far stretch, considering that they hosted local chef, Blair Lebsack at an outdoor, farm to table dinner. This event included a five course dinner and wine pairings....oooh, I’m getting the cravings!

So why organic?

It is not just about better flavour and nutrition. It is about being part of a food cycle that cares for people and the environment. Price comparisons are often made between conventional and organic food items. The price of food is directly correlated to the number of labour hours spent on production.  Organic food is much more labour intensive because farmers do not rely on mechanical and chemical inputs at the same level as some conventional production. The Chens practice crop rotation and use green manure crops, grown as ground covers or plowed down, to build fertility and improve the soil. Eric admits that one of the biggest challenges of farming can be finding a healthy work/life balance. Because farmers love their work, it can be hard to remember to make time to do things not necessarily farm-related. Eric and Ruby find satisfaction in providing their customers with organically grown, healthy, nutritious, and most importantly, delicious produce.


Is organic labelling a gimmick?

No, organic food is the most highly regulated food in Canada. There is an extensive regulatory framework that ensures every farm, producer, processor and distributor is inspected at least once per year. Every producer pays for its own certification and inspection costs and works in partnership with the Canada Food Inspection Agency to ensure food labelled organic is truly organic.

Visiting the farm was such a refreshing treat! Eric and Ruby were so hospitable and generous. I left with samples from their farm and a big smile! J. Peas on Earth has established itself at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, the St. Albert Outdoor Farmers’ Market, the Callingwood Farmers’ Market, and the Organic Box home delivery program. The farm is located at 24527 Sturgeon Road, Sturgeon County. Check out their website at peasonearth.ca or call 780-973-6680.


Your desire for everything green

My visit to First Choice Tree Nursery occurred on a beautiful sunny day when I was just itching to get out of the office after spending several hours at the computer. First Choice is just off Range Road 245 from Township Road 642, East of Morinville. The 80 acre tree nursery is owned by Ron and Deb Cherdarchuk who have owned the business for 22 years. If you have a passion for florals, you’ve probably heard of their son, Cory Christopher who makes regular appearances on Breakfast Television, CTV and the Edmonton Journal.

I was greeted warmly by Deb, who came out her greenhouse with a big smile and her tools – she was clearly enjoying her day working with her plants. It’s quite amazing that she’s able to get back to work after a bout with Hanta virus that threatened to take her life. Despite her slow road to full recovery, Deb is grateful to be back to what she loves.

First Choice Tree Nursery offers caliper and shelter belt trees, including edible and floral container gardens. In case you’re wondering, caliper trees are older and larger than saplings, and require extra care when planting. Shelterbelt trees consist of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind and to protect soil from erosion. Container gardening on the other hand is a method of cultivating plants exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. It’s useful in areas where the soil or climate is unsuitable for the plant or crop in question. Ron (Deb’s husband) also provides landscaping services and skid steer work.

Trees

First Choice Tree nursery has prairie hardy trees and shrubs in many sizes and varieties, including some exotic tree species like the Japanese Maples pictured on the bottom right. The nursery sells plants in container sizes along with balled and burlap field grown trees. Tree nursing can be labour intensive and a risky venture especially for small producers and is truly a labour of love. Deb spends several hours potting plugs, irrigating, fertilizing and weeding them until they are ready for her clients. With the experience she’s gained over years of nursing trees, you can be confident of the quality of her trees - her customers love her products. So whether you are a rookie gardener in need of hand-holding or an experienced gardener planning a major project, Deb can give you the professional advice and tailored recommendations to ensure your unique project is completed easily, with long-lasting results.

 

Container Gardening

For some home owners, the distinctive feature of their home is the expansive landscape and garden. Large flowerbeds filled with colourful perennials and annuals, bushes and shrubs lining the side walks or rows of vegetables. Fortunately, for those who lack ample space around their home, they do not have to miss out on all the gardening fun. Condo-bound gardeners who have even just a few square feet of available space can still work on their green thumb and beautify their outdoor space.

 

Container gardening is a niche that Deb is rapidly expanding at the nursery – I’m personally excited by this aspect of her business because it allows anyone to change the ambiance of an area by changing the plants in their pot or by moving them around. Take your pick – flowers, herbs or vegetables, Deb has an impressive array of plants that can bring splendor to your balcony, patio or window.

Take a visit to First Choice Nursery with your family. She will show you around the nursery, and around the farm. Even if you don't need plants right now, Deb would be happy to talk about possibilities with you, and share some of her ideas about landscaping. Here is her contact information:

56032 RR 245 in Sturgeon County
Phone: 780-939-4448

Call for an appointment



Your next sweater should be alpaca!

Late spring and summer are the best times to go on farm visits - longer daytime, warmth and animals that come out to play. Looking for a fun filled visit, I picked up my camera and headed over to Alberta Rose Alpacas which is located just 20 minutes North of Edmonton just off Highway 2, West of Morinville. There’s red alpaca barn is quite noticeable from the turnoff so it’s easy to spot. The owners of this alpaca ranch are Bob and Lauraine Bijou.

Prior to being involved with Alpacas, Bob worked in the construction industry and Lauraine worked as a school secretary in Morinville for many years.  They started a farm 20 years ago with a couple of alpacas and continued to breed them until they reached about 150. I have got to admit, the moment I saw the animals, I just loved them. They are so cute and look like a giant stuffed animal – what kid wouldn’t like them! Bob and Lauraine have built up their herd over the years to include prize champion winning alpacas. Breeding genetically superior alpacas is the most lucrative part of the business besides wool products.

 

Alpaca Wool

Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious fibers, known for its fineness, luster, light weight and insulating quality, which is eight times that of wool. High-end designers are flocking to alpaca for its valuable fiber as many of them feel the yarn produced is more luxurious than cashmere and mohair. They are the only animals in the world that come in so many different colors. While similar to sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber is warmer, not prickly, and is hypoallergenic.

Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, with more than 300 shades from a true-blue black through browns-black, browns, fawns, white, silver-greys, and rose-greys

Bob and Lauraine shear the alpacas at the end of April or early May. The fiber is then sorted and sent to a local mill. Just as certain parts of a cow produce prime cuts, so do specific sections of an alpaca produce prime fibers—and that’s how alpaca yarns are sold. Twisted Sisters & Company Fiber Mill and Store in Leduc processes the raw fiber, which they spin into yarns and a variety of other products such as alpaca socks, duvets, blankets, scarves. Alpaca products may seem expensive but they are a good investment because they are far less likely to pill.

Did you know that an alpaca can handily grow enough wool for four or five sweaters in a year?

   
Woven alpaca scarf, hat and mitts

Bob and Lauraine are in the process of winding down their alpaca business within the next two years; however, their experience in the business has provided many insights that they’re willing to share with other alpaca enthusiasts. They also have a wide range of alpaca products for sale, so whether you’re interested in learning more about alpacas, planning a daytrip for the kids or getting a clothing gift for a friend or family member, visit their website at: http://www.albertarosealpacas.com

 


Heart ♥ healthy
Everyone's talking about the Nordic Diet - a diet with an emphasis on good, home-made and often home-grown, seasonal food - consisting of a wide variety of grains, berries, vegetables, fish, poultry and game (but very little meat). Health-wise, the diet has been proven in studies to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and lead to weight loss. 

New Nordic Diet calls for canola oil which is the main cooking oil in Scandinavia and contains seven percent saturated fat, even less saturated fat than olive oil, which contains 15 percent. It’s a great local alternative for those without access to olive oil. Canola is used as a key ingredient in many foods including the Nordic Diet. Its reputation as a healthy oil has created high demand in markets around the world, and overall, it is the third-most widely consumed vegetable oil. 

Canadian-grown canola contributes $19.3 billion to the Canadian economy each year, including more than 249,000 Canadian jobs and $12.5 billion in wages according to the Canola Council of Canada. The main canola products manufactured in Canada are oil for human consumption and meal for livestock feed. Canola oil can be further processed into a wide range of consumer and commercial food products.

I visited Bunge, a multinational company with a seed crushing facility in Sturgeon Industrial. Bunge is an agribusiness and food ingredient company that manufacturers edible oil products. From canola oilseeds, they produce shortenings and margarine, as well as salad and cooking oils for food processors and food service operators - you have likely enjoyed one of their products.


Bunge’s canola crushing plant in Sturgeon County produces crude canola oil and canola meal from harvested canola seeds. The company has been in the County for 35 years and currently employs 50 full-time people. Bunge sources its raw materials locally by working directly with local growers in Alberta .

Although I didn’t get an opportunity to tour Bunge’s processing facility, I learned a lot about the process used to turn canola seeds to oil. Essentially, canola oil is made at a processing facility first by removing waste material from the harvested seeds. The seeds are then pre-conditioned by slightly heating and turning them into flakes before they are pressed to extract the oil. The extracted crude oil is further refined using organic acids to give it good stability and shelf-life. The final step uses distillation to remove any unpleasant odour or taste. At this point, the canola oil is ready to be packaged and sold as cooking oil, or further processed into other products.

Every day, Bunge’s crushing facility in Sturgeon Industrial Park crushes about 850 metric tons of seeds, extracts 350 tons of crude oil and produces 500 tons of meal or pellets (a by-product created after the oil is removed from the seed flakes). The crude oil is transported to Wainwright, Alberta for further refining and then shipped back to Edmonton for packaging. Bunge sells fifty percent of its products on the Canadian domestic market and the remaining in the U.S. West Coast, China, Malaysia and Indonesia to name a few.

The Canola market has a great future ahead and processors are expected to gain tremendously from a healthy market outlook. In 2014, domestic processing totalled 7 million metric tons but that is expected to double by 2025. Trade agreements with South Korea and Europe in 2014 eliminated the tariff on canola and will improve market access for Canadian canola. Bunge is hoping to capitalize on this positive trend by expanding its seed crushing capacity. That could result in new employment opportunities in upcoming years.

For more about Bunge, visit: www.bungenorthamerica.com

Interesting Fact: Did you know that the name "canola" was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s? The "Can" part stands for Canada and "ola" refers to oil.




It’s all about good chemistry
I made a trip out to Guardian Chemicals, a privately owned Canadian company that researches, develops, and manufactures specialty chemicals in Sturgeon Industrial Park. I was impressed to find that environmental health and safety embody Guardian’s product development, from raw material selection to waste disposal. The company has been in existence for over fifty years with a current count of 53 employees at their 44,000 sq. feet facility. It really looks like a great place to work.

Chemical and materials manufacturing facilities play a major role in just about every facet of our lives but few people are aware of this industry’s role in keeping other sectors of our economy humming – think chemicals for newspaper printing presses, recycling water, cleaning boilers…the list goes on. Guardian Chemicals provides over 400 chemicals products for multiple applications and they have four divisions that cater to a wide range of sectors. One thing is common across these industries – they’re looking for products that are not only effective and reasonably priced, but environmentally safe as well - a tough juggling act from my point of view but a manageable challenge for their research and development team.

Pressguard and Roadtek are two products that are equipping industry to move toward safer, high performance products that are also environmentally friendly. Let’s starts with Pressguard and its uses in the wood panel manufacturing industry. I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, bought furniture made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF is a product made from wood fibers that are glued under heat and pressure - a versatile product that replaces timber as a low-cost alternative.

The most common binder used in making these boards is formaldehyde, a chemical that is of concern to the wood panel industry because of the risk of cancer. The industry has imposed tighter controls on the use of formaldehyde and most mills in Europe and North America are switching to resins that are free of them.

Although these resins are safer to use, some cause excessive buildup on panel pressing machines, thereby slowing production. So the smart scientists at Guardian Chemicals have formulated a release agent called Pressguard that prevents this sticky resin buildup from occurring. In the picture above, the wood panel is sprayed with the release agent before the surface of the metal press comes into contact with the panel. Unlike other release agents on the market, Pressguard does not require any elaborate application process so it keeps the cost of board manufacturing low and our furniture affordable for us.

Another product that Guardian Chemicals invented has the potential of changing the road construction industry. If you’ve ever had unpleasant experiences with rough roads with washboard bumps and loose gravel, potholes, ruts or excessive dust, you’ll be pleased to learn about another product Guardian Chemicals is currently testing. Roadtek is an environmentally friendly and nontoxic product that is designed to stabilize and extend the life of roadways without major road base work. Twelve roads are currently being tested across Strathcona, Lamont and Sturgeon Counties, including some in St. Albert. You can test drive one of them in Sturgeon County at Lamoureux Drive at Highway 15 or Range Road 251, 1 mile south of Township Road 544. Roadtek has other uses including parking lots, mines, construction site, trails and embankments.


In the picture above, a computer-controlled spray boom on the back of a distributor truck is spraying a county road with Roadtek. Depending on the weather, the road is typically tack free (i.e. not sticky) within 4 to 6 hours. At that stage, the area may be reopened while the sealer coat continues to cure. It reaches full strength within 10 to 14 days.

Here's what a country road looks like after it’s sprayed. Looks like you'll have a few less trips to the carwash this fall! It’s remarkable to see a local company develop such innovate products that will ultimately have a positive impact on industry and the environment. If you’d like to learn more about Guardian Chemicals, check them out at  http://www.guardianchem.ca/ or use this link to find them on Google Maps.

Guardian Chemicals
Phone: (780) 998-3771


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