RICHARDSON, Sask. — It’s just happy coincidence that Richardson International’s new Saskatchewan research farm is located next to a community of the same name, says chief executive officer Curt Vossen.
In fact, the company had to search extensively for available land around Regina because of other projects such as the Regina Bypass.
It found it about 10 kilometres southeast of the city.
Bennett Farm is 444 acres in the dark brown soil zone across the road from the yard where the Bennetts still live.
“Lo and behold, Mrs. Bennett said, ‘I like it (and) my husband would have loved it,’ ” Vossen said.
Richardson is spending $15 million to create a research and development facility similar to Kelburn Farm, south of Winnipeg, which it has operated since 1997.
Phase 1, which includes construction of a machine shop, shed, storage bins and landscaping, is nearly complete.
Phase 2, in 2017, is expected to bring construction of a new regional office for Richardson Pioneer, and Phase 3 the following year is expected to add a training and events centre.
The first 164 plots are in the ground and a tech tour is planned for later this summer.
Vossen said Saskatchewan is home to most of the company’s customers and establishing a research farm made sense.
“We think that Canadian farmers are some of the best adapters and adopters of new technology in the world,” he said.
“That science needs to be adapted to normal field scale pragmatic practical conditions. It’s a long way from a research bench to a farmer’s field.”
He also noted that research from another soil zone will add another dimension to the company’s information. That is critical to future production.
Vossen said western Canadian crop production from 2006-10 averaged 51.4 million tonnes.
The five years from 2011-15 averaged 61.2 million tonnes.
“There was not one year during that second five-year period that was less than the average of the previous five years,” he said.
He said there are industry-wide implications for a change of 10 million tonnes in such a short time.
“What can we do 2016 through 2020? And how are we going to do it?” he said.
“That’s worth an incremental value to agriculture, to Western Canada, to the Canadian economy of somewhere in the range of $3 to $4 billion, reproducible each and every year.”
Bennett Farm will also be a place where urban residents can connect to modern commercial agriculture, while seeing how it co-exists with the environment.
Wascana Creek runs through the property and Ducks Unlimited will be undertaking projects on the waterway.
Murray Bennett, speaking for the family, said maintaining the pasture land around the creek has always been important whether the family had cattle or not. His father received a conservation award for maintaining some native prairie.
“You don’t have to work up everything to still make a living,” Bennett said.
The family is proud to help educate people and advance the science of agriculture.
“Mom’s tickled pink,” he said. “It’s fun to drive by and see our land, that’s been in my family since 1943, being used for something to promote agriculture.”
Bennett said they also appreciate their long-standing relationship with Richardson Pioneer. The first elevator built in Richardson in 1919 was Pioneer, and when the Bennetts established their farm they dealt with the company.