SaskBroker Magazine > Canola’s long and successful history in Saskatchewan and Beyond

Canola’s long and successful history in Saskatchewan and Beyond

By Peter Flengeris, Communications Manager, Viterra
Posted on October 14, 2021

Last spring, Viterra announced its intent to build a state-of-the-art canola crushing plant in Regina. With an initial targeted annual crush capacity of 2.5 million metric tonnes (MMT), this will be the world’s largest integrated canola crush facility.

This significant project, the largest single site investment in Viterra’s 100-year history, is the latest chapter of canola’s long and successful story in Saskatchewan and beyond.

Since it was first developed at the University of Saskatchewan in the 1970s, canola has become one of the world’s most important oilseed crops and a profitable crop choice for Canadian farmers. Ongoing improvements have produced canola varieties with better resistance to disease and weeds, as well as improved crop yield, quality and shorter maturity time.

In less than four decades, a booming canola industry has emerged from experimental fields in the Prairies to gain significant ground in the world oilseed market. The uses for canola have also expanded over the years, and presently includes the production of low-carbon biofuels, such as biodiesel, renewable diesel and aviation fuel. These biofuels emit up to 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional diesel, and their increased adoption is expected to create significant new demand for farmers’ crops.

Today our farmers grow an average of 20 MMT of canola on the Prairies annually, double the amount grown 20 years ago, with Saskatchewan currently the world’s largest producer and exporter of canola seed. According to the Canola Council of Canada, production is expected to grow to 26 MMT by 2025. For Viterra, the long-term outlook for the canola market makes this an ideal time to make a substantial investment in its asset network through the construction of a new crush plant.

“As we look ahead, we anticipate that oilseed crush demand will continue to strengthen, given continued demand growth for canola oil in food usage, as well as increases in meal consumption in animal feed markets,” says Kyle Jeworski, CEO of Viterra North America. “Further, this plant will play a key role in supplying the feed stock required for renewable fuel production, which will be vital in supporting the federal government’s intended Clean Fuel Standard, which aims to help reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Farm customers will derive significant benefits from the plant, including the ability to access additional marketing opportunities close to home, and reduce the risks associated with being overly reliant on export markets for their canola.

Further, Viterra’s crush plant will significantly increase domestic value-added processing capacity, supporting the provincial government in meeting its target to crush 75% of the canola produced in Saskatchewan. In fact, the plant’s capacity of 2.5 MMT would surpass Canada’s second largest export market, eclipsing Japan which receives an average of 2 MMT of canola annually.

“Through this project, we will be able to further leverage our strong relationships with farm customers and our commitment to providing them with superior service, while supporting Saskatchewan’s overall growth plan,” says Jeworski. “Further, this project will have a long-lasting and positive local economic impact, both in terms of employment related to the facility’s construction and permanent employment once the plant is up and running.”

Third-party estimates indicate the plant will add approximately $500 million to the Regina region’s gross domestic product. Part of this figure stems from the approximately 1,000 jobs that will be created during construction, as well as up to 100 permanent, full-time jobs once the plant is operational.

The site for the plant is located in northeast Regina in the heart of southern Saskatchewan canola production. Strong access to labour, as well as the existing road and rail infrastructure, also make this site ideal for the plant.

While Viterra is in the process of finalizing the plant’s capabilities and design, it will utilize modern technology throughout the building process to ensure that the plant is efficient and in line with its high environmental and safety standards. One of the facility’s key features will be the addition of loop tracks, which will support the faster and more loading and unloading of rail cars. Further, a high-speed receiving system will be capable of receiving three trucks every five minutes, making the unloading process for farm customers fast and efficient.

While this plant represents the most significant single site investment Viterra has made, it comes on the heels of many other projects the company has executed on in recent years. It’s currently constructing a new high throughput grain elevator at Biggar, and has opened similar facilities in Kindersley and Wadena. It’s also upgraded and expanded existing facilities across the province including Balgonie, Weyburn, Grenfell, Gull Lake, Swift Current, and Strongfield to ensure it’s providing the best possible service to farmers.

“We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our Saskatchewan asset network over the last several years, and are very proud to be moving forward in the planning process of our new crush facility which represents our confidence in the future of western Canadian canola production,” says Jeworski. “Whether it’s farm to table or farm to fuel tank, we aim to create new value and new opportunities for our farmers and our communities.”

At this stage, Viterra expects to break ground on the project next spring and have it fully operational by the end of 2024.