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.
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.”
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.