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Tuesday, 28 August 2012 09:12

New products coming out of expanded oilseed plant

Written by  Stephanie Labbe
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Richardson Oilseed is proud of its new bottle designs along with its new labels. The company is predicting consumers will enjoy the new, easier to carry bottles and the labels, including a new wrap-around label. Richardson Oilseed is proud of its new bottle designs along with its new labels. The company is predicting consumers will enjoy the new, easier to carry bottles and the labels, including a new wrap-around label. Photo by Stephanie Labbe

The largest privately-owned agri-business expects many great opportunities and much more success in the future due to its recent $15-million expansion.


On Aug. 22 Lethbridge’s Richardson Oilseed Limited, held its grand opening of the latest expansion to the plant.
The plant itself has been on site for more than 50 years and Shirley Gilmour the director of operations for Richardson nutrition says the original site was built about 27 years ago.
She explains canola producers from across southern Alberta provide canola seeds to Richardson Oilseed for production of its canola-based products including canola oil, shortening and butter.
“We bring seed here from the entire southern Alberta into our refining facility which is our oilseed processing division. So, the rest of the site here, they receive the seed, they refine it and bleach it and deodorize it and then we are their largest customer.
We take probably about 50 per cent of that oil that’s refined on site and we bring it into this plant and we pack that plant,” explains Gilmour.
Two products the company is working on producing is frying and popcorn oils. These are new products the company can produce with the expansion and updated technology.
Gilmour is excited to be finished the expansion and the employees look forward to what they can do with the updated technology and space.  
John Haen, the vice-president of the nutrition division, says Richardson Oilseed, which sells product under the brand name of Canola Harvest, will now also be packing all of Safeway’s oil from vegetable to corn oil and canola oil.
“By making this investment it allows us actually to compete, but (also) build our platform of business with the future. So, we’re quite excited about that,” says Haen.
Jut a few years ago, Richardson Oilseed built a new facility in Yorkton, Sask. and between the Yorkton and Lethbridge locations, Richardson Oilseed crushes 1.24 million metric tons of canola seed per year.
“That’s a lot of canola seed,” states Haen.
The company is working on developing healthier canola-based products for both the retail industry and food manufacturers.
The expansion increased the size of the facility by 40 per cent, added 33,000 square feet, fully automated the oil-handling process and added 6,000 square feet of bulk oil storage.
The expansion was approved in December 2010 and was underway in May 2011.
The tank farm was upgraded, which now allows 940 metric tons of oil to be stored. The on-premise warehousing has been upgraded, where before, it was manually done and would take around six hours to blend oil. Now it can take less than an hour and can blend up to five different recipes at once.
There are 11 new storage bins in the on-premise warehousing with seven bins being kept at room temperature and four bins are heated.
The bottling, packaging and labeling machine is new to the company. Prior to the expansion, the company only had two different types of labels, now they have four. 
Before the expansion, the company would have up to 30 to 50 refrigerated trailers in its facility holding product, because there wasn’t enough space to store it. As well, 20,000-square-feet of warehouse space was added to the facility.
Also, along with doing upgrades, the company has upgraded each of its oil bottle types. It used to take four to six hours for workers to change the bottling line for each different type of bottle. Now the workers can do it in an hour and a half.
Another new thing the company is excited about is the new packaging system. Instead of packaging everything in boxes, they can limit the amount of cardboard used and just place the bottles in cardboard trays and wrap it in shrink wrap.
Haen is excited about the completion of the facility and looks forward to what can be done with the upgrades.
“I think what it does is, it really gives us the advantage of being very competitive in terms of making canola-based products, selling them to all of North America, primarily in the western United States and western Canada. It puts us in a very good economic position,” says Haen. “Our teams internally had to work around all of the construction dust and all of the things that were going on and our biggest concern was safety ... We always had a safe working environment and I’m happy to say we did not have a single incident (or) accident.”
Another project the company is working on is a $1.5-million pilot plant and lab facility that will be used to test and develop new products. This part of the facility should be open for use by the end of the year.
Richardson Oilseed was established 155 years ago and is a subsidiary of James Richardson & Sons, Limited. In 1999, Richardson bought the plant in Lethbridge, in which it works from today.
Not only does Richardson provide canola-based products to consumers, but has also been giving back to the community for more than 50 years.
The 22nd annual Richardson charity golf classic was held Aug. 23 and raises funds every year for important causes in Lethbridge and the surrounding communities. Since it started, it has raised more than $1.4 million and has supported over 60 charities and organizations that serve southern Alberta.

Read 3862 times Last modified on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 09:15