Plans announced today for improvements to both seed receiving and refining capacity at the Richardson canola plant in Lethbridge came as welcome news for southern Alberta farmers.
The company announced $120 million worth of upgrades to the plant, located in the city’s industrial park, which are designed to improve seed receiving and also increase crush capacity.
The plant now processes approximately 450,000 tonnes of canola annually, taking seed from processing and oil refining through to packaging of oil and margarine. Upon completion of changes now underway, it expects to crush more than 700,000 tonnes annually.
“Increasing the speed of the receiving plant is a top priority for us to better serve our customers, providing them with the ability to deliver their seed quickly and efficiently,” said Darwin Sobkow, Richardson executive vice-president of agribusiness and processing operations, in a news release.
That comes as welcome news to Kevin Serfas, a regional director with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission who farms thousands of acres in southern Alberta.
Serfas said he stopped delivering to Richardson in recent years because the wait times for unloading seed could be so long.
“Any upgrades on the receiving side, they could do no wrong,” said Serfas upon hearing the news.
Tracy Shelton, director of corporate communications at Richardson, said construction of a seed receiving elevator is already under way at the plant.
“That’s one of the things that our customers look for, is a quick turn around,” said Shelton.
“We’ve all heard about lineups, especially at peak times. That’s one of our top priorities is to ensure that our customers can deliver and get in and out.”
According to the Richardson news release, the plant upon completion of these upgrades will be able to receive 800 tonnes of canola per hour. They will be ready for harvest deliveries in 2017.
The plant installed new processing equipment last year that essentially doubled its refining capacity and expects to process more than 2,000 tonnes of canola per day once the upgrades announced today are complete.
Shelton said the Richardson canola crushing plant in Yorkton, Sask., which opened in 2010, set a standard to be met in Lethbridge.
“We’re really trying to bring the Lethbridge plant up in terms of increased efficiency and upgrades to it. We’re definitely invested in the community of Lethbridge and we want to modernize the facility and increase our capacity to crush canola in Lethbridge as we do in Yorkton.
“It’s a matter of bringing the facility in line with what we’ve created at Yorkton and being able to maximize our efficiency at both plants.”