From high protein to sustainability, food trends drive demand for niche crops – Agweek

Consumer appetite for certain foods has opened the door to more markets for farmers in the northern plains to sell their wares.

Prices for crops such as peas, oats and canola, which are grown on varying acreages in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, are rising due to demand.

Paul and Diane Overby run Lee Farms near Walford, North Dakota, growing these three crops along with sunflowers, flax, hard red spring wheat and soybeans on 1,300 acres. Instead of two or he planting three different crops in a large field, seven or he produces eight grain and furrow crops.

Overbys grows crops on an average of 70 acres. This is at least half the size of the fields many farmers grow conventional crops such as corn. The couple needs a small field because she produces more than half a dozen crops on 1,300 acres of arable land.

Over the years Overbys has experimented with different crops. Some, like broad beans, have stopped growing, but most have become a permanent part of the crop rotation.

“We dabbled in a lot of things as contracts became available,” said Paul Overby.

With consumer demand for certain foods increasing, food companies are taking steps to ensure they meet growing demand by signing acreage contracts with farmers, Overby said. I’m here.

“Companies are saying, ‘I want healthy food,'” says Overby.

North Dakota in particular has several small processing plants that purchase and process specialty products.

“If you go back 15 or 20 years, there weren’t that many. Now the food industry is better prepared for segregation,” he said.

As of December 2022, Overbys has already reduced about half of its total 2023 pea, canola, oat, sunflower and flax acreage.

Reducing the acreage reduces Overbys price risk. They know their prices are entering a period of growth and don’t need to be at the mercy of the potentially volatile physical market.

Overbys has contracted approximately 200 acres of high oleic variety Nexera canola with Bunge in Altona, Manitoba. Contract prices for the 2023 harvest are $2 to $3.50 per 100 weight above market prices, depending on the month of delivery, Overby said.

Overbys are contracted for March 2024 delivery, which is $3.50 above market price. The cash price for Nexera canola in mid-December was $30.83 per 100 weight of him. Overbys plans to start locking prices in the next month. As the year progresses, they price the 2023 crop higher.

Lee Farms also grows oats from General Mills and high-protein yellow peas from ADM.

Yellowfield peas could become a hot commodity in the specialty crop world.

PIP International, an Alberta agricultural technology company, has developed a new extraction method for pea protein. CEO Christina Lewington believes it will revolutionize plant-based protein and give farmers more opportunities to market their yellow pea crop.

Christine Lewinton

Christine Lewington is CEO of PIP International.

The company’s protein extraction process is very different from other protein extraction processes used by other companies and comes from the pharmaceutical industry, Lewington said. Her company has taken technology from the pharmaceutical industry and put a “twist” on it, building its own equipment for extracting pea protein.

PIP International, which plans acreage contracts with farmers in Saskatchewan and western North Dakota, has a $20 million pilot pea processing plant in Lethbridge, Alberta. PIP International plans to begin construction of his $150 million processing plant in the coming months.

The company has the capacity to process 126,000 tonnes of peas per year, more than any other facility in the world.

The company said its proprietary process has caught the eye of 39 commercial food companies that are negotiating with PIP International about using its products.

The company’s process of extracting the protein results in a product that has a “clean taste” unlike other pea proteins that are not always palatable.

Black and yellow building.

PIP International built a $20 million yellow pea protein processing plant pilot in Lethbridge, Alberta.

“They stink. They don’t taste. They don’t look good,” she said.

Pea protein is highly functional for use in all areas, including beverages, Lewington said.

“For farmers, I am now able to give them long-term contracts to grow peas,” she said.

PIP International is negotiating a well above market price of $10.50 per bushel in Canadian currency with a North Dakota farmer.

Growing niche crops could provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to survive, Overby said.

He also believes it can provide a low-cost way to start farming for young people who want to grow crops sustainably and connect with consumers.

“The opportunity now is better than anything I’ve seen in my 30 years of farming and I hope it continues in North Dakota,” Overby said.

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