The cars are new, only driven a few laps, and are a sign of the organic corn revolution. The first plant of its kind in Canada, the Minoterie Calico in Saint-Paul, in Lanaudière, was built at a cost of $10 million. A bold bet, since at the moment the company does not have a contract with potential buyers. Explanations.
Posted at 8:30 am.
The adventure began in 1985. After working for several years at the factory, Sylvain Reynaud bought the farm. Very quickly, he abandoned dairy production to focus on field crops. The Bonneterre farm expands after she contacted his brother Richard. Tired of doing the same thing over and over and seeing a way to increase its profitability, the producer decides to convert his enterprises to organic production. Spelled, vegetables, beans, soybeans easily find a market with buyers like Bonduelle. Corn, on the other hand, sells for a ridiculous price.
“In the region alone, we have gone from sowing 1,700 hectares in 2015 to 8,000 hectares in 2022. There is a surplus of production and not quite processing for human consumption, which explains the low prices, ”the businessman explains.
The birth of an idea
Having a good relationship with the La Milanaise flour mill, Sylvain Reynaud learned that the company did not have the equipment to produce organic cornmeal and that its customers had to source goods from Colorado.
“I had trouble selling my stock and they needed it for the flour we use to make several products, including gluten-free bread and pasta. I told myself that if we build a factory, we will have a buyer. The idea was in my head, but there was no time to deal with it, ”says the entrepreneur.
Already the next generation
Far from giving up on the project, but seeing the years go by, Sylvain Reynaud plans to entrust this new project to an unrelated successor. He meets an agronomist, Malory Obe, who accepts the challenge.
“She went to school in Alberta and drove a car. We didn’t leave her alone. We surrounded ourselves and turned to the business consulting firm Inno-Center. We have done market research. It is she who is engaged in the development of the market and the management of everything related to the flour mill. »
Building Canada’s first organic cornmeal and flour plant is no small feat, especially in the midst of a pandemic and a time of labor shortages. Far from discouraged, the entrepreneur engaged the services of Bühler, a Swiss company active in the mechanical industry. “They are the best manufacturers in the world in this area. We have robotized as much as possible. There will be only two or three employees for operations, and the plant can operate 24 hours a day. Thanks to the virtual reality glasses, if there is a problem, the technician in Switzerland will be able to direct an employee and offer technical assistance. »
The entire plant is dust-free as all residue is absorbed at the source and can be sold as a by-product for animal feed.
Creation of a new market
Sylvain Reynaud is so confident that his factory will create demand that he has already planned to expand it. “We can produce as much semolina in bags from 20 to 1000 kg as flour. The potential per year is 10,000 tons, but we think big. The premises are large because we are considering completing our phase II. »
The producer is also not afraid of a shortage of raw materials and is convinced that Quebec farmers will also be there to ensure supplies.