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  • Norfolk Farms

Elevator looking for growers of IP beans

Norfolk County farmers have long been known to produce a wide diversity of products that could end up anywhere in the world. One surprising destination for a growing amount of Ontario soybeans is for Japanese tofu.

The Japanese want Identity Preserved (IP) soybeans for this market. Contracting growers and shipping IP beans has been an exponentially increasing market for Brantford-based Snobelen Farms. In 2017, the Bruce County based business purchased an existing elevator that Jim Milosten built on Colborne Street East in 1993. One of the huge draws of the location was the close proximity to the Port of Hamilton and its export markets.

“The food-grade beans are a new addition to what we do,” said Troy Tate, location manager in Brantford.

IP soybeans for tofu are worth a $4/bushel premium for the farmer, but there are many conditions that must be met. Pesticides can be used, but no glysophate. There are strict guidelines on varieties – which are typically food grade white hilum - and the seed can’t be contaminated with any Round-Up Ready beans. Harold Vander Glas, manager of seed procurement in Brantford and the person in charge of procuring IP acres, explained most growers ensure this by dedicating a separate planter and combine only for IP, make a switch to only growing IP or do a really good job cleaning their equipment between dealing with the two different types of beans.

“If they find one Round-Up Ready bean, they will reject the whole bin,” Tate said.

IP beans also have to be harvested at a stricter moisture tolerance since they cannot be dried as this will caramelize the protein. It has to be 14.5 per cent or less. If this standard isn’t met, or there is contamination with genetically modified beans, the entire load will go to the crushed market and the grower will forego the premium.

Snobelen Farms Brantford location has a separate pit, a 160,000-bushel bin and two 40,000-bushel bins already set aside for IP.

Due to the demand, plans are to add another bin for IP beans next year, which will add 160,000 more bushels.

“This is growing faster than we can build bins,” Tate said.

Outside of the IP beans, Snobelen Farms is one of the largest elevators in the Brantford and Norfolk area with a 2.2 million bushel capacity. Soybeans, corn and wheat are all received at the facility and shipped to various locations.

One other unique market is a need for non-GMO beans for the crushed market in Europe to make soybean flour.

“We’re trying to differentiate ourselves by doing some of these things,” Vander Glas said.

Snobelen Farms has eight locations across Ontario, most of which are in or near Bruce County. The company started in Ripley in 1971.

The majority of the IP beans are shipped to Lucknow for processing and then go by rail to Vancouver.

The greatest percentage of the corn received, which makes up 70 per cent of the volume handled, goes to Port Colborne. The remainder is sent to the ethanol plant in Aylmer and the new processing plant in Brantford for corn meal.

Other than the IP soybeans, 60 per cent of the soybeans are shipped to Bunge in Hamilton for processing. The remainder are sent to Hamilton for export.

About 90 per cent of the wheat going to local mills. These include ADM, Parrish and Heimbecker and Ardent Mills. Some also goes to the ADM plant in Buffalo. The remaining 10 per cent, which is lower grade, is used for animal feed.

Vander Glas did point out Ontario produces more soft grade wheat than it uses. ADM and Parrish and Heimbecker ship processed flour globally.

Snobelen Farms is just one connection for Norfolk agricultural products to the world. 

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