University of Saskatchewan Prepares to Expand Feed Grain and Feed Processing Research Infrastructure

CANADA - The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) expects to break ground this summer for the construction of a new Feed Technology Research Facility and a new Grain Quality Laboratory. The two new facilities will become part of the Agriculture Research Park that is being developed adjacent to the University’s Saskatoon campus.
calendar icon 17 March 2007
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The research park is already home to the Crop Field Laboratory and Pulse Research Facility and plans are also in the works for a Biofuels Research Centre and a Byproducts Research Centre.

Feed Technology Research Facility to be Operational by Fall 2008

The $12 million Feed Technology Research Facility, which is expected to be under construction this summer and operational by September 2008, will focus on the formulation of new feed products from the crops grown on the prairies to add value to those crops.

“It really has two functions,” explains College of Agriculture and Bioresources associate dean of research Dr. Graham Scoles. “One is that we will use this to develop feeds for the animals that we use in our research to combine various ingredients into different feeds and so on, looking at things such as extrusion and those types of processes. Then the other is to do research in terms of the whole feed processing technology, how the nutrients in the feed are affected by the various processes that feeds go through as they are manufactured.”

U of S Researchers to be Primary Users

Dr. Bernard Laarveld, department of the Animal and Poultry Science Department, notes, the primary clientele for the pilot plant will be researchers at the U of S and its affiliated institutions including the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC), the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), the Protein Oil and Starch Plant (POS), the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).

“They will primarily use this pilot plant for research projects including the milling of research diets but also, particularly for the college of engineering. The college has a very strong interest in this facility because they want to look at the engineering aspects of processing in terms of equipment design, energy use, particle flow through systems.”

Benefits Expected to be Wide Ranging

“In terms of the clientele served, I see it serving starting at the livestock industry of the province and opportunities for greater feed efficiencies, more economic feeding opportunities,” suggests Feeds Resource Institute executive director Dr. Scott Wright.

“I see it serving the feeds industry that actually generates economic value as a result of value adding of Saskatchewan crops. I see one of the recipients of benefits being the crops industry in terms of having alternative higher value opportunities for both crop and crop residue sales.”

“All of that I think really supports both the economic development, the generation of jobs, the generation of economic wealth pushing that all the way into export markets world wide for very high value Canadian product that can replace a number of feedstuffs on the market.”

Grain Quality Lab to Build on Work Already Underway

The $5 million Grain Quality Laboratory will further the work of the University’s Crop Development Centre. The mandate of the Crop Development Centre, in the Department of Plant Sciences, to increase crop diversification opportunities for Saskatchewan farmers, to improve the adaptation of existing Saskatchewan crops and to be a centre of excellence for crop research.

“We see these two projects interrelated in that particularly as we move into the whole biofuels area. There is a need to develop crops that are adapted to that process, and as one produces ethanol or biodiesel from crops, you are left with co-products that probably have some value in feed so the two facilities compliment each other and will be built adjacent to each other next to the campus,” says Dr. Scoles.

The Grain Quality Laboratory will house the infrastructure to assist in analysis of crops, looking at quality traits including anything to do with starch, protein levels and oil levels.

Dr. Scoles explains, “It's primarily equipment that we can use to screen the various lines that come out at various stages of the plant breeding program.”

“This equipment will screen for malting quality in barley, we will [also] be looking at bread making quality in wheat [and] oil quality in the oil crops. But going far beyond that, in terms of paying attention to all of the various components of these crops, we are trying to do whatever we can from a genetic point of view to improve those crops and ultimately improve the bottom line of the producer.”

Research Intended to be Wide Ranging

Dr. Laarveld agrees, it is a very wide range of research. “One aspect is to use the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron to study the effect of processing on the plant material itself and on nutrient availability so that it’s basically a coupling of this pilot plant with the Synchrotron. There will be a lot of research on doing processing studies on the byproducts coming out of the biofuels industry which is going to be a major growth area we believe.”

As well, he says, “We will be doing value-added feed development of high value feed products that are destined for high value markets in Canada and also internationally. I’m thinking here, for example, of feedstuffs for aquaculture and especially for the export markets in aquaculture, dairy feeds, pet food as well, specialty type feeds for the Asian market as well for shrimp, fish, so that’s a major area. Then also a lot of research on how we get more value out of stressed crops or very marginal feeds at present. What can we do through processing ,blending and formulation to get more feed value and add more value to those feedstuffs for local use here in western Canada?”

Dr. Scoles notes, “Much of the early work on canola as a feed was done here so we’ll be doing that. We certainly plan on doing a lot of work around the co-products from ethanol, the dry distillers grains and solubles type of material, similar material coming out of the biodiesel plants, anything to do with pulses, anything to do with incorporating oilseeds into feeds, looking at products of low quality, how you can make use of them and produce good feed from them.”

New Products Expected to Create New Opportunities

Dr. Wright adds, “As we see feed costs for raw feed grains beginning to bump up in price, we see real opportunity to be generating good high quality feed value coming out of the co-products streams.”

“We’re just seeing the economic pressures for the aquaculture diets moving away from fish meal and fish oil into vegetable type replacements so again a very timely pull for an extremely high value industry.”

Facilities Will be Widely Accessible

As well as serving the needs of the researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, the Feed Technology Research Facility will be accessible to other researchers.

“This pilot plant will be quite unique in Canada,” says Dr. Laarveld. “We will be offering the feed industry and feed companies the ability to actually do contract research and their own research in this facility. So they can do toll type processing for research diets or they can actually come in and rent the facility for a day or for a week for their own particular confidential research.”

“We have tremendous potential to increase our livestock numbers,” observes Dr. Scoles. “As a province the amount of value that we add to our crops, whether it be through that type of a process [feeding livestock] or through other processes, is pretty low. And so, from the provincial government’s point of view, they want to see more of our crops being utilized within the province. Feed is a big part of that. We certainly have land and the ability to have more animals within this province and so that’s one of the big drivers.”

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