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Manitoba home to largest pea protein processing facility

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by Myron Love

A major European food processor has officially broken ground signifying the start of construction for a new $400-million pea protein manufacturing plant in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Brian Pallister, premier of Manitoba (left), joins Pascal Leroy, head of the pea and new proteins business line with Roquette, to turn the first shovels full of dirt signifying the start of construction on Roquette’s new pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Brian Pallister, premier of Manitoba (left), joins Pascal Leroy, head of the pea and new proteins business line with Roquette, to turn the first shovels full of dirt signifying the start of construction on Roquette’s new pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie, Man. - Photo: ROQUETTE

For the Roquette Group, which operates more than 40 food processing facilities worldwide, the plant in Portage is its first in Canada.

"We chose this location because it provides easy access for pea growers in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan," says Pascal Leroy, head of Roquette's pea protein operation. "It also gives us access to a skilled workforce and it is close to the American border."

The site is about a 45-minute drive west of Winnipeg.

For a company based in France, building in Canada presents certain challenges relating to climate and other factors that contractors don't have to face in Europe, Leroy states.

As a result, reports project manager Martin Fregeau, Roquette contracted with two Canadian engineering firms to oversee the project.

Hatch Consulting Engineering and Project Implementation is based in Toronto while EPCM Technology Group has offices in Toronto and Calgary.

"There are special conditions and standards in Canada that differ from those in Europe," Fregeau explains. "Insulation standards and soil conditions are also different. In Europe, we are not familiar with the kinds of winters you have in Canada."

Roquette also found the environmental regulations different.

"Obtaining the required environmental permits was a long process," he comments. "Although, it went smoother than we expected. We produced an 800-page document. We received our permit in early August."

Fregeau adds he is "crossing his fingers" that the winter will be relatively mild.

"We are especially hoping that it doesn't get too windy," he says.

One focus when it comes to building the plant will be on making the operation as energy efficient as possible. That's another reason why the company chose to build in Manitoba. The Portage location won out over almost 40 other locations that Roquette considered in North America.

"Manitoba Hydro provides green energy," Fregeau notes. "The power is reliable and Hydro's rates are among the lowest in North America."

The company also received $6.8 million in provincial and municipal tax-increment financing and $2.5 million from the federal-provincial Growing Forward program, which will go towards construction of the new plant.

About 400 workers will be employed during construction and the plant is scheduled to be operational by the middle of 2019.

Roquette is a family-owned company that produces more than 650 byproducts from the starch extracted from corn, wheat, potatoes and peas.

The company was founded in 1933 by brothers Dominique and Germain Roquette and employs more than 6,600 people globally.

The Portage plant will employ about 150 workers and produce about 130,000 tonnes of pea protein yearly, making it the largest pea protein processing facility in the world. The facility will also produce pea starch.

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