An Ontario first

NEW LAB WILL OFFER FULL SUITE OF QUALITY TESTING

TIMING, IT’S OFTEN said, is everything. This probably applies to agriculture more than any other industry. Whether it is trying to get crops seeded, weeds controlled, or grain in the bin, all of this relies on timing and can greatly affect the outcome of the activity.

The same can be said for the development of a new Ontario Grains Lab located in Guelph, ON. As a joint venture between SGS Canada and Grain Farmers of Ontario it all came down to timing.

Grain Farmers of Ontario had been working on the development of an analytical testing facility for Ontario cereal crops for a few years. After trying to work with the provincial government and a number of their funding programs, it was determined that the best strategy moving forward would be for Grain Farmers of Ontario to venture out on their own. Timing had a different idea. It all started with a meeting back in the spring between Grain Farmers of Ontario and SGS Canada.  SGS Canada is part of the SGS Group, the world’s largest testing and inspection company. The meeting was initially set-up to discuss the services SGS Canada could offer to Grain Farmers of Ontario members. It quickly turned to a discussion on how to bring analytical and quality testing of cereals crops to Ontario. 

QUALITY AND FUNCTION
Fast forward seven months and the Ontario Grains Lab is in full development with equipment being purchased and resources being hired. The lab will be located at SGS Canada’s current testing facility in Guelph. “We are very excited about this opportunity and to be partnering with the largest commodity organization in Ontario,” says Don Slobodzian, vice president agricultural service, SGS Canada. “SGS has always been involved in the agriculture sector through inspection and testing, but this opens a whole new segment for our business.” 

The development of the lab could not come at a better time. Favourable weather conditions during the 2015 harvest period allowed for over a million acres of wheat to be seeded in the province. This is a significant increase over the 600,000 acres that were grown in 2015. Being able to market the crop is going to be critical. “Understanding the quality and function of our crops is a key part of us being able to position them in the best markets,” says Barry Senft, CEO Grain Farmers of Ontario. “This joint venture could not have come at a better time for our industry.”

The Ontario Grains Lab is the first of its kind in Ontario and will offer full analytical services for cereal crops including, moisture and protein testing, rheological testing, physical dough and bake testing, grain and flour analyses, physical tests, and mycotoxin testing. While the emphasis of the lab is initially on wheat and cereals, other commodities Grain Farmers of Ontario represents could also be part of the labs works. Although still under development, the lab will be fully functional for the harvest of the 2016 crop. “We will be fully operational for this coming wheat crop,” says Slobodzian, we recognize the importance of understanding the quality with such a large crop and we want to be able to help position Ontario wheat as a viable option, whether it be for the domestic or export market.”

SERVING NEW MARKETS
The joint venture is a 10 year agreement between the respective partners that sees Grain Farmers of Ontario investing in capital to develop the lab. In return, Grain Farmers of Ontario will receive a credit for services at the lab to be used to conduct their annual Ontario Wheat Quality scoop and other market development and research projects. “We see the lab as a great opportunity for us to help grow the demand for Ontario wheat,” says Senft. “With barley and oats recently coming under our mandate, there is great opportunity to better understand the functionality of each of these crops to help grow their market opportunities as well.”

International and domestic markets are changing. Each year there are increased demands on the amount of quality information that is required. The Ontario Grains Lab is well positioned to meet these needs. “Ontario is a small player when it comes to production, but has been able to differentiate itself through consistent high quality products,” says Senft. ”The lab will not only help to meet the immediate needs of the industry but will also help position Ontario for the future as a  leader in domestic and export markets.”

The lab will be equipped with two Buhler experimental mills — one dedicated to soft wheat and one dedicated to hard wheats — to allow for more commercial opportunities. “We will offer a full range of commercial services to help meet the needs of Ontario and Canadian millers and processors,” says Slobodzian. “We are currently working with industry to identify the areas of need to ensure that we will have all of the proper equipment and services available for commercial applications.” •

About Nicole Mackellar 5 Articles
Manager, Market Development, Grain Farmers of Ontario