Growing research in grain

Hub working to strengthen grain innovation community


JoAnne Buth, Peter Frohlich and Juan Carlos Arriol with Cigi's new Ferkar mill, which will be used to help farmers commercialize new flour products.

A mill which can produce 100 kilograms of flour per hour from Manitoba-grown pulses is part of just one of the projects supported through the Grain Innovation Hub, currently funded by Growing Forward 2.

A Ferkar mill was purchased by Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) in Winnipeg as a one stage milling piece of equipment suitable for the milling of pulses and other crops. The mill can be used for testing and producing flour in a larger capacity for Manitoba farmers who are looking to begin commercializing a new product. The mill produces a high quality flour with a uniform granulation.

"Our objective is to support the agriculture industry. The equipment we have is to educate and conduct applied research activities with Canadian crops," said Peter Frohlich, project manager for pulses and special crops at Cigi. "For example if someone wants to use a new variety of peas in a flour, this is a good sized mill to conduct a trial."

Cigi is the first facility in Manitoba to have a Ferkar mill, making it a destination for researchers and farmers to test their product ideas. Established in 1972, Cigi has a unique combination of technical expertise and processing equipment designed to evaluate and optimize the use of Canadian field crops in a wide range of end-products.

"We've had samples in from across Western Canada which we analyze for quality and how the flour performs in breads or pastas," said JoAnne Buth, chief executive officer at Cigi. "We're able to share these results with our buyers across the world. Canadian wheat and pulses have an excellent reputation for quality."

Bringing Manitoba to the world

This information is brought directly to international millers, bakers, noodle makers and pasta processors through Cigi's new crop missions, training programs and meetings with local and global food companies.

Aside from equipment like the Ferkar mill, Cigi has also received funding for market analysis, which aids them in determining which grains will sell in which areas of the world.

"I think the Grain Innovation Hub is very important for Manitoba growers and the industry," said Buth. "We're into our second year of working with the hub and are looking for more opportunities to grow our capacity and continue our research."

"Manitoba has an exceptional environment for collaborative innovation. We're a big contributor to Canada's competitive position in global grain markets and it's time for us to bolster our contribution to grain innovation," said Daryl Domitruk, director for research and market intelligence at Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. "Bringing innovation driven businesses and organizations together under the hub enables strategic collaboration for the good of Manitoba's economy."

The Grain Innovation Hub (GIH) is an initiative under Growing Forward 2 created to encourage innovation in Manitoba's grain sector. The hub aims to fund projects that improve crops and farming systems that:

  • increase resiliency to flooding
  • manage risks from crop disease and insect pests
  • develop and adopt equipment and information technologies used in production, storage and transportation of grains
  • target the discovery and development of innovations that expand demand for Manitoba grain

Knowledge and value of grain attributes

Another piece of equipment funded partially by the GIH is a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) system. It is used to identify the compounds found in crops and cereals at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM).

"We analyze the input and output from animals, looking at a snapshot of all the compounds available at each time," said Dr. Dan Brown, principal investigator of bioactives research at CCARM. "For example, a berry juice will have 4,000 compounds and many of those are unknown. The machine will help us to identify those compounds and what their function is."

CCARM will be able to look at crops and grains that were grown in different areas and see what the differences are by the function of their compounds. That can help in choosing ingredients for breads and other foods processed from Manitoba-grown ingredients.

"The NMR can be applied to many different problems, for example identifying compounds in foods that can help with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes," said Brown.

While initial research will be done within CCARM, Dr. Brown said he is very excited to collaborate with people and organizations outside the centre to focus on finding new ways Manitoba grains can improve health.

Other projects being worked on through the GIH include the development of knowledge on grain storage at Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute in Portage la Prairie and an artificial in vitro stomach system at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg that improves knowledge on human health from a variety of foods.