It is interesting how some ideas pop up for various people at the same time.
Such certainty appears to be what might happen moving forward as Saskatchewan prepares to produce literally mountains of canola meal in the very near future.
With three new canola crushing plants, two at Regina and one at North Portal, and a major expansion to an existing facility in Yorkton all announced in the last few weeks has to have those in the industry questioning whether farmers can produce enough canola without pushing rotations too far, to keep the facilities humming along.
On the oil side the healthy aspects of canola oil for human consumption, and an expected surge in demand for biodiesel bode well for sales for crushers.
But what about the other side of the crush industry – the meal -- that is essentially the leftover portion of the process?
Canola meal has typically found its way into the feed market, particularly the dairy sector stateside, and to China for fish farms, but with massive growth in meal production it is going to require savvy marketing, and new market development to make that side of things profitable.
In terms of new markets, two seem to offer a huge upside, if research can find a way to make the meal work in those sectors.
The first is rather obvious, human consumption.
There is significant interest, at least from a portion of consumers, in meat substitutes made up of various plant protein sources with added flavours, chemicals and other additives.
As consumers show interest the food sector has actively promoted such products – in particular the fast food sector with non-meat burgers.
Canola meal is a good protein source, but it has not proven very palatable. It has been the Achilles’ Heel for the product even in the livestock sector.
If researchers can make canola meal work in the current wave of meat substitutes it can be a huge market.
More likely in the short term will be the bioplastics field.
There is huge interest in plastics that will actually degrade in nature/landfills. Where many current plastics are destined to be decades long garbage in our landfills and oceans, a bioplastic would actually degrade.
Canola meal could be one of the source materials for such plastics, again with research and development.
The meal is essentially a resource waiting for markets.