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Sask. food processor puts out the welcome mat

Tours of oat cleaning and processing plants conducted.

ROWATT, Sask — Avena Foods recently invited buyers and others to tour its oat cleaning and processing plants located south of Regina

International buyers of gluten-free food produced at a Saskatchewan processing plant were given an opportunity earlier this month to see where the products originate.

Heidi Scheiblehner, supply chain manager with Bob’s Red Mill in Portland, Oregon, was one of the buyers to make the trip.

“The facilities are amazing. I was here six months ago and so much of it is new, it’s just very impressive,” Scheiblehner said during Avena Foods’ recent tour of the company’s oat cleaning and processing plants in Rowatt, just outside Regina.

James Del Frari, Avena’s vice-president of operations, said most of the products the company produces goes to the United States, but it also has buyers in Southeast Asia and Europe.

The oat processing plant will double the company’s processed oat production once it is completed in November 2022.

The cleaning plant has been operating since 2020. The tour provided the public with a chance to see the new facilities and watch the cleaning plant in action during a demonstration.

“There’s a lot of really good, really important and meaningful improvements that have been made in agricultural production on farms and in processing facilities over the last several years,” said Gord Flaten, Avena’s chief executive officer.

Company officials say locating the pulse facility in Rowatt was an easy one to make when it decided to expand its capacity.

“The demand for oat products is growing extremely fast,” Del Frari said.

“We’ve seen the trend for the last decade, especially the gluten free oat market and then with oat milk the last few years.”

The company also used the tour to announce two sustainability initiatives, which Flaten said is important for the company.

“We wanted to put a focus on environmental sustainability because it’s become a big issue for everybody,” he said.

“Consumers want to know, what’s the environmental impact of this food they’re eating?”

Margaret Hughes, Avena’s vice-president of sales and marketing, said the company has purchased carbon credits from Terrapass to offset it carbon emissions. The purchased credits fund the planting of trees and other efforts to counterbalance the carbon emissions that Avena produces.

She also said the company will create a sustainability advisory panel, which will meet twice a year to “review what we’re doing in terms of sustainability, what we’re planning to do and provide some rigor to what we’re doing.”

The event also featured oat plot tours at the Klym farm north of Regina, where Roy and Lois Klym, along with sons Tyler and Dustin, called on Saskatchewan farmers to donate a portion of their oats sold to Avena this year.

Last year the family donated 40 tonnes of oats to the Regina Food Bank through Avena Foods.

“This was the first time we really made an announcement to farmers, so we’re going to promote it to the farmers we do business with,” Flaten said.

“Farmers are really generous people, so I expect we’ll be getting some more donations.”

Farmers willing to donate will be given a charitable tax receipt for the quantity donated.

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