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Field Farms Marketing (FFM) celebrated the opening of a new HACCP-certified food-grade crop-cleaning and conditioning facility on Lasalle Line on June 22.
David Felder, director of business development of the Petrolia-based non-GMO, organic and other niche crops marketing specialist, provided tours for guests during the grower open house.
Felder’s parents started the company in 2005 after first getting involved in brokering and marketing organic crops on a smaller scale in 2000. The company now works to connect a range of crop growers — from soybeans to amaranth to millet and teff — with buyers in niche markets ranging from kosher to gluten-free to fair trade and organic.
Why it matters: Rita Felder says the company’s decision to construct the new facility is a testament to what they believe has been continued growth in Ontario’s organic and non-GMO crop acreage.
Several years back, FFM purchased the intellectual property of eastern Ontario’s Homestead Organics when it ceased operations, securing itself as a leader in marketing organic and non-GMO crops in the province.
Rita Felder, FFM co-founder and David’s mom, said acquiring Homestead was a way to honour its founder Tom Manley’s work as a leader in organic farming in Ontario.
FFM finished construction on the facility just up the road from an older elevator adjacent to the family’s organic hog barn in September 2022. Along with a weigh scale and scale/sampling building, it’s now fully operational, handling organic and non-GMO IP soybeans and other crops.
The HACCP-standard testing can be conducted in the weigh-scale shed and provide farmers with immediate notification of any GMOs in their crops. If there’s a positive test, a sample is immediately submitted to determine if the contamination level falls within the threshold allowance for non-GMO status.
“Sometimes it’s just a couple of beans left in the wagon that didn’t get completely cleaned out,” Felder explained. “And we don’t want to have anything rejected if it’s actually a good crop.”
The company is also open to farmers sending away a sample themselves to have the result confirmed.
The new site has a dryer, and the elevator site has an additional large dryer capable of handling crops brought in at any moisture level. There is a pre-cleaner if needed for particularly weedy deliveries.
There are two distinct handling systems, a Meridian system for food grade on the east and a Sukup system on the west side for feed grade.
“The Meridian is better in terms of handling food-grade beans because of its gentle handling,” Felder said.
The Meridian side has several 100-tonne bins, which is a lower capacity than some conventional elevators, but FFM expects it will be sufficient for the volumes they’ll be receiving.
Inside the cleaning facility, the screening bin separates all the split beans, which FFM has a market for.
“We’re trying to maximize the value you can get for food-grade soybeans in Ontario,” explained Felder.
Next is a destoner. Many food-grade soybean customers require beans to be run through a destoner because bean-sized stones that don’t get caught by the gravity-based sizing screens or even the colour sorter can damage some processing equipment.
Next are the sizing screens and the colour sorter. The colour sorter is insulated because very cold weather can affect the generation of light and capturing of the image by cameras on five different wavelengths.
The goal is to eliminate anything but “that perfect, light-colour, clean bean,” and taken together, the cleaning mechanisms “choose the best beans based on size, shape and colour.”
Canadian soybeans are known locally and globally for their high quality, protein level and size. FFM’s buyers typically look for 40 per cent protein or higher for food-grade beans.
The new facility can clean several tonnes per hour, with a conveyor to send the crop through the system a second time if they feel it’s necessary. Felder said they don’t miss beans because the system is enclosed from offloading to the end of the bagging conveyor.
They are doing about 70 per cent organic beans and 30 per cent non-GMO IP. Their goal is to continue to build supply to get the facility running at 100 per cent capacity.
The demand is still growing for organic soybeans, and they hope it turns up a notch or two in the coming months and years.
“At the end of the day, the customer at the grocery store is determining what types of beans the buyers are going to be looking for,” David Felder said.
Rita Felder said the company would continue, in some cases, to use other processing facilities for the different crops they handle. Striving to find processing options close to where the crops are grown that comply with the niche market requirements is how they’ve served their North American and overseas buyers and growers since 2005, she said.
Now with the new Lasalle Line facility, they’ve taken a big step to consolidate a considerable proportion of their crop handling.
So far, it’s been limited to soybeans but hopes to expand into black beans, navy beans and possibly red kidney beans in the near future. Down the line, they also foresee handling lentils and corn.
“We want to get really good at cleaning out, work out all the bugs before we start running through other crops,” David Felder said.
Updated July 12, 2023 to correct name spelling.