Winnipeg Feed Mill First to Install Infrared Sorters, Receives $1.1M in Gov’t Funding

A feed mill in Winnipeg will be the first commercial facility in North America to use an infrared-based grain sorting technology to remove grain infected with fusarium or ergot.

Standard Nutrition Canada Co. is receiving $1.1 million from the federal and Manitoba governments, and investing $1.1 million of its own, to purchase two BoMill TriQ near infrared spectroscopy sorters.

“The sourcing of clean high-quality grain has become a major issue in our region,” said Jason McNaughton, president and general manager of Standard Nutrition Canada Co. “In many cases these grains are shipped to markets over long distances, which also decreases the margin potential for our growers. This investment by our company and governments is a key step in reclaiming the value of local crops while maintaining the integrity of the food we produce.”

Operating at approximately 3 metric tonnes per hour per machine, McNaughton says they intend to clean 1.5 million bushels at full capacity. The high-fusarium byproduct will be pelleted on-site and supplied as a burning pellet to hog barns that are transitioning away from coal heating.

The University of Saskatchewan (at its North Battleford feed research facility) and Canadian International Grains Institute in Winnipeg have been working with the Swedish-made BoMill sorters for several years. As Cigi’s Rex Newkirk explains in this video, the BoMill uses the same technology that’s in most grain elevators for measuring protein content, except it analyzes and sorts thousands of seeds per second. He notes this chemical analysis is more accurate and specific, but slower and more expensive, than optical or colour sorting.

“It bounces some light off (each seed). The molecules react and only let a certain amount of light back, and this gives you a measure of protein, moisture and many things,” he explains. “This sorter looks at every seed going by on that system. You can pick which seeds you want to take out. So if they fall outside a certain range, they can be removed.”

According to the government news release, fusarium damage cost Manitoba farmers $400 million in 2014. The BoMill sorters at Standard Nutrition are expected to increase the value of Manitoba grains by $4 million annually.

The government funding was announced by Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn and Federal Minister of State (Finance) Kevin Sorenson on Thursday. The money comes from the Grain Innovation Hub initiative announced by the Canada and Manitoba governments in May 2014.

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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