AGT Foods Opens Two New Pulse Facilities in Alberta, “The Next Big Frontier for Pulses” (PCN Spring 2017) MAR 28 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.
AGT Foods is banking on the continued popularity of pulses with Alberta farmers by opening new pulse facilities in Gibbons and near Calgary.
“The next big frontier in the world for pulses is either Alberta or Montana,” AGT Foods President and CEO Murad Al-Katib told a packed room during FarmTech 2017.
AGT’s new and improved Gibbons plant opened up in 2016, and the plant 14 km south of Calgary is under construction with opening scheduled for fall 2017.
The company entered into binding agreements to acquire all of the assets of Finora Inc., including the Gibbons plant (approximately 40 km north of Edmonton) and three others in Saskatchewan, in 2009.
“Southern Alberta is one of the only all-pulses regions in the world,” Al-Katib said. “This year, Alberta exceeded Australia for the first time. Alberta’s growth is beneficial to the pulse sector in Canada because we need balance in the organization.”
Al-Katib added that Alberta was the second largest producer of lentils in the world in 2016. Saskatchewan was the largest producer. He said that the Alberta advantage also includes the proximity to ports, a typically earlier harvest, and room to grow the acreage.
He took the opportunity to praise the Alberta Pulse Growers for efforts to grow the industry as well.
“The leadership of the Alberta Pulse Growers has really impressed us,” Al-Katib said. “Your Directors get that it’s about protein.”
AGT Foods began in 2002 and showed Saskatchewan producers that lentils were something that they should be growing for many reasons. Al-Katib had seen how the red lentils that were grown in Canada were shipped to Turkey and other countries to be split, and wondered why the splitting couldn’t be done in Canada.
“I said I’m going to start an agricultural company and make a lot of money,” he recalled. “I have made a lot of money, but producers have made a lot of money too.”
The Regina-based company buys lentils and other pulses from producers and sells them around the world. It began production in 2003, went public in 2007 and eventually grew into one of the world’s largest lentil companies, handling about a quarter of the global supply.
“We were able to take that pulse opportunity and we were able to monetize it,” Al-Katib explained. “About 24 per cent of the world’s lentils go through our facilities today. From producer to the world was my vision, and as a $2 billion company today, that is still our vision.”