Avena Virtual Grower Meeting 2021: Recap

Regina, Sask., Feb. 22, 2021 – Avena’s Grower School went virtual for the first time, with updates on the Avena Purity Protocol program, a preliminary peek at first results from the new Field to Market Canada sustainability projects, and an inside view of the corporate approach to regenerative agriculture at Danone North America.

The annual event recognizes farmers as the first essential to success. Grower School is designed to update farmers on the latest developments at Avena and invite discussion about programs, best practices and new initiatives. It began as a way to introduce farmers to food safety and quality requirements specific to the Avena Purity Protocol gluten-free oat program. While the virtual landscape has its limitations for chatting, over 40 participants attended an event packed with information. Plenty of good questions were asked and answered.

Jump to Section:

Avena Purity Protocol Grower Updates
Refresher training and sharing important company and program updates with our growers

Field to Market Canada 
Presentation and update on Avena’s oat and pea projects

Regenerative Agriculture at Danone North America
Inside view of how Danone North America works with farmers to advance regenerative agriculture

Avena Purity Protocol Updates

The Avena procurement team kicked off the day with an introduction for new growers to the Avena Purity Protocol program for gluten-free oats. Grain Supply Coordinator, Tera McCloy-Beach, and Director of Procurement, Mike Gallais, introduced new recommendations for crop rotations, revised inspection forms and updates on Avena’s facility expansions in Rowatt, SK. The team shared pictures of the recently commissioned oat cleaning facility and the site of Avena’s second Purity Protocol oat mill which is currently under construction for 2022.

“First off I want to thank you guys,” Gallais told the growers. “Without you, we wouldn’t have the successful program that we have. I wake up every morning glad to be in agriculture. While other industries have had great setbacks in the past year, we’re still here and even seeing incremental growth.”

The new cleaning facility, which accepted its first Avena Purity Protocol oat delivery this past September, allows Avena to now pay market value to growers for thins and dockage in addition to cleaned oats, Gallais said. He reminded growers to continue being extra vigilant to keep barley out of their fields, as it is difficult to separate from oats, even with the new facility.

McCloy-Beach introduced new growers to Seven Steps for Success within the Avena Purity Protocol program. The steps assure food safety from start to finish, beginning with certified seed, right through to delivery. She pointed out that following these steps results in a very small percentage of rejected loads.

Growers also heard updates from McCloy-Beach on new efficiencies within the program, including a revised pre-loading inspection form that is designed to be easier for Avena growers to fill out than the previous one.

Additionally, due to new regulations regarding allergens, Avena Purity Protocol gluten-free program is now required to meet heightened restrictions for soy. McCloy Beach told growers that Avena recommends a two-year (soy-free) crop rotation on fields designated for Avena Purity Protocol oat production. Soy levels must be below 2.5 ppm in a lab analysis to pass new allergen safety regulations.

Learn more about Avena Purity Protocol.

Field to Market Canada Pulse and Oat Sustainability Project with Avena

Field to Market Canada presented an update on Avena’s oat and pea projects.

Field to Market Canada, a country partner of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture follows a science-based, outcomes-focused, technology-neutral approach to understanding and promoting sustainability for Canadian commodity crops. By providing useful measurement tools and resources, Field to Market metrics provide a baseline for continuous improvement at the field and landscape levels.

Field to Market Canada President, Harvey Bradford, said there are several reasons why the sustainability project is important to farmers. Bradford described the project as a chance for growers to:

  • connect with projects and partners across the value chain that support farmers in pursuing continuous improvement,
  • assess the environmental performance of farm management practices against regional and national benchmarks
  • collaborate with grower groups to share the industry’s sustainability story with consumers and strengthen confidence in our food and agricultural system.

“Consumers are beginning to base purchasing decisions on the sustainability of supply chains. By demonstrating your participation in sustainability initiatives, you are taking control of your sustainability story and taking a step to securing a market for your production,” Bradford said.

Avena CEO Gord Flaten pointed out potential benefits to farmers that are participating in the Field to Market sustainability projects.

“No one knows more about the environmental impact of food production than farmers,” Flaten pointed out. “And no group has done more to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of their operations in the last few decades. It seems clear that pulse and oat farmers in Western Canada are among the best in the world at producing food while minimizing environmental impact. One of our goals at Avena is to find ways to ensure consumers recognize that and to do it even better.”

To learn more about Avena and Field to Market Canada’s pulse and oat sustainability project, see the official press release.

Regenerative Agriculture at Danone North America

Regenerative agriculture was the final topic of the day, with Jean-Marc Bertrand, Director of Procurement Canada for Danone North America, leading the discussion. Danone North America is a world leader in consumer-packaged goods. It is widely recognized for its plant-based products under the brand SILK.

Bertrand provided an overall view of what Danone is doing to promote regenerative agriculture. Bertrand said agriculture represents 60% of Danone’s carbon footprint. Danone Canada has made a commitment to reduce total greenhouse gasses by 50% by 2030. At the end of 2020, Betrand said, a 25% reduction had already been accomplished, mainly due to work done in agriculture.

To deliver on their commitment, Danone has developed a Regenerative Scorecard and grid showing steps growers can take to improve their rating. The grid shows exactly what growers need to do for continuous improvement to reach higher levels of soil health, biodiversity, water conservation and lower carbon output.

“This is a paradigm shift,” Bertrand said. “We have moved from competing with nature to partnering with nature, disturbing the soil to protecting and rebuilding the soil, monoculture to diversity and reductionist to holistic practices.”

“Working hand-in-hand, directly with farmers is absolutely essential,” he added. “Without you guys, we cannot move the needle. We are not farmers.”

One way Danone has made it easier for grower’s to improve their ratings at three Canadian dairy farms, is to assign an agronomist to work directly with farmers as they implement and measure progress.

“We believe that these practices of regenerative agriculture are going to help us respond to consumer demand and increase revenue per hectares for farmers.”

Danone currently has no regenerative agriculture requirements for its Canadian farmers, Bertrand said. However, he noted that Danone France has pledged that all their producers will meet Danone’s regenerative agriculture standards by 2025.