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Avena Customer and Farmer Appreciation Day Recap

sustainable agriculture plot trial flags sustainable agriculture plot trial flags

What’s Ahead for Canadian Pulse and Oat Ingredients?

In 2022, global demand for pulse and oat ingredients is soaring. At the same time, concerns are growing about environmental impacts and global food security.

Against this backdrop, specialty miller Avena Foods held a ‘Customer and Farmer Appreciation Day’ on 4 August, to explore the role that these crops can play in promoting and improving sustainable systems of food production.

More than 100 people – farmers, researchers, food and beverage producers, and civil society groups – came together for the event, which was hosted by Avena in Rowatt, Saskatchewan.

The event included:

  • Updates on Avena’s ‘Regenerative Agriculture Innovation Project’;
  • Tours of new oat varietal plots and experimental intercrop and cover-crop plots;
  • A look at the latest technology in soil probes and drones;
  • Hands-on sampling of tasty vegan burgers, hybrid burgers and egg-free muffins, created using Avena’s range of pulse flours and fibers;
  • Tours of Avena’s new oat cleaning plant and oat mill, scheduled to be commissioned in the fall of 2022.

Markus Weber, director of implementation and technology at Field to Market Canada, introduced Avena’s Pulse and Oat Innovation Project. In the first phase of the program, three years’ worth of data has been collected from 30 farmers, covering 30,000 acres of land, and entered into the ‘Canadian Fieldprint Calculator’. Field to Market Canada then compares this data with baseline metrics of land-use efficiency, soil conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and soil carbon.

Markus also demonstrated several different Landview drones. He explained how they can be used by farmers as a precision agriculture tool.

Avena’s experimental intercropping and cover-crop plots were created to demonstrate innovative practices for the Canadian prairies. They feature in phase two of the program. Colourful flags identified plot sponsors, including Bob’s Red Mill, Danone Canada, Field to Market Canada, H2Oats, IWON Organics, Oats Overnight, Old Dutch, Protein Industries Canada, South East Research Farm and Warburton’s Canada.

“Intercropping is an old farmer hack,” said tour guide Lana Shaw from South East Research Farm in Redvers, SK. “Throw a bunch of seeds together and see what grows. Except we’re doing it in a more coordinated and intentional way.” She pointed out pollinators and nitrogen-fixing plants among the lentil, pea and oat intercropping mixes. She outlined the benefits and pitfalls of growing and harvesting more than one crop at the same time, based on 10 years of research.

Visitors also got an up-close look at new oat varieties that are being tested at nearby Condie Seeds, under the direction of agronomist Justin Ritco. Also displayed was a state-of-the-art soil probe, used to measure moisture at various depths.

Sustenance for the day came in the form of delicious muffins created by Regina’s gluten-free Baker Joe Oddo as well as burgers by Winnipeg’s Chef Gordon Bailey. These items were made using Avena’s specialty-milled pulse flours, egg replacers, pulse grit and fine oat flours.

“Pulses and oats are the caviar of the Prairies,” Chef Bailey told guests. “The ingredients Avena is developing provide protein, functionality and great taste.”

Margaret Hughes, Avena’s VP of sales and marketing, announced the formation of a Sustainability Advisory Panel. Several members of the expert group were present at the event. The creation of the panel is a major step forward for Avena’s sustainability program. It will review Avena’s sustainability initiatives and identify new business opportunities. For example, Avena recently committed itself to offset the environmental impact of staff air travel, through the purchase of ‘Terrapass’ carbon credits. Terrapass uses the proceeds of carbon offset payments to fund climate-friendly projects including reforestation and landfill gas capture.