Hollywood couple invests in Sask. pulse processor

James Cameron, left, Suzy Amis Cameron and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tour a new pulse plant in Vanscoy, Sask., Sept. 18 in which the Camerons have invested.  |  Brian Cross photo

VANSCOY, Sask. — Academy award winning film director James Cameron made a stop in farming country this week to announce the opening of a new multi-million dollar pulse processing plant at Vanscoy, Sask., about 20 minutes west of Saskatoon.

The 160,000 tonnes fractionation facility will be part of Verdient Foods Inc., a business that was formed by Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron, major investors in the plant.

The new facility will source yellow peas grown in the province and will convert them into value-added protein, starch and fibre ingredients to be used by food manufacturers in Canada and around the world.

The Camerons, who reside in California, are involved in a variety of agricultural ventures in Canada and around the world, all with the common goal of promoting healthy food choices and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

Initially, the Vanscoy facility will source and process conventionally grown peas but the eventual goal is to convert the plant to an all-organic facility that handles only organically produced pulse crops.

“We want to have business enterprises here in Saskatchewan, such as this one, that are profitable and that show an example of how you can do something that’s good for the environment and (for) future generations,” said Cameron, a vegan, whose films include The Titanic and Avatar.

It’s only by adopting more environmentally friendly production practices, that “we’ll be able to slowly steer our ship of human civilization toward a more sustainable future,” he added.

Francisco Gardulski, plant manager at Vanscoy, said the facility has no definitive timelines on when production will be converted to organic.

For now, the company’s focus is on sourcing conventional yellow peas, ramping up production and developing new markets for the plant’s value-added products.

“We’re going to start with peas initially and after that we will look at other pulses as well,” said Gardulski.

“We want to be at 50 percent capacity by December.”

The Camerons have also entered into a four-year, $500,000 agreement with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre to develop value-added organic food products.

As part of that deal, the Hollywood couple will help to finance a pilot scale fractionation facility at the Saskatoon-based food centre.

The pilot scale facility will be aimed at enhancing fractionation methods and processing other pulse crops.

Carl Potts, executive director of Sask. Pulse Growers, said the new Vanscoy facility is good news for pulse growers and the pulse industry.

“This new processing capacity, especially in the areas of fractionation and ingredients, is an important part of our overall growth strategy as an industry,” Potts said.

“We already have dominant market share in many traditional markets for pulses and if we want to continue to grow acres and grow production, we need to build demand as well so (expanding) ingredient demand … is an important part of that.”

Investors declined to attach a dollar figure to the new Vanscoy plant.

Verdient will immediately begin sourcing yellow peas.

The plant’s first products are expected to be shipped out in November, Gardulski said.

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