Original Published 10:00 Jun 08, 2022

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The agricultural industry has been ever-present within southern Alberta and many communities across this province have been investing in this industry. One of these communities is Strathmore. Currently, they are opening a new plant to break down plants into other components, such as sugars and proteins in a process called fractionalization. Martin Shields, MP of Bow River, spoke about this new plant as well as discussing fractionalization in general. 

“People in Taber are very familiar with the sugar beets industry, you have been for a long time as am I — in that we don’t ship out sugar beets, we ship out the fractionalize chemical components which break down to sugar,” said Shields. “That’s a high-value product that we produce from sugar beets that is exported
and used as a commodity product. So, this one that was announced in Strathmore is fractionalization of a yellow pea crop — which yellow peas are grown extensively as a rotation crop in the irrigated regions — and this plant is the first phase in a $225 million project that will start to be built this summer that will be fractionalizing yellow peas down to four products. The protein one is the value-added one that will be sold for export as well as domestically used. In the Bow River riding, with irrigation, we have a tremendous future in the sense of continuous fractionalization of products down. So, not just shipping bulk whether it’s a wheat, whether it’s  barley, but as was with sugar beets we fractionalize it down. This is another example of the kind of industry that’s coming in the future in the Bow River riding because of irrigation and the high-value products that are already grown, but fractionalizing them down to their chemical components and getting protein is the next step. This plant that has been built in Strathmore, which will access yellow pee from a 10 km range, it gives you an idea of how many are grown
and rather than shipping them by the carload to Vancouver to be put on ships to send to the Asian market in particular — as well as working at what needs to be happening in the future. It’s getting the fractionalized protein out of it. This is a tremendous move in the irrigation district in the sense of the kind of crops they do grow and they will continue to grow. This
is a good step when we see this kind of industry being developed in the re-gion like a sugar plant — we now have a different kind of plant in Strathmore but there will be more to come. The people in the agricultural sector have been hearing about this for years so that’s a good step forward.” 

While discussing agriculture, Shields also talked about the importance of rain for some other farming industries within drier climates such as the cattle industry. 

“One of the things in the agricultural area that we hear a lot about is rain,” said Shields. “Now if your irrigation, irrigation districts are turning on their water earlier this year because it has been dry, very dry. The cattle industry in the dry land area, whether it’s in Taber, whether  it’s in Brooks, people who are using grassland pastures, it is extremely dry this year without irrigation. That’s a concern in the cattle industry at the amount of feed is very limited and very expensive if they can find it. Rain, we desperately need for prairie grassland, so hopefully, that does occur and so it is a challenge in the cattle industry, the grasslands are very very extremely dry at this point. Irrigation will be great for those people who have it but on the dry land areas where cattle often graze, it is brutally dry this year.” 

This item reprinted with permission from The Taber Times, Taber, Alberta