It is a major milestone for Canadians and the entire world. A new state-of-the-art wheat breeding station just outside of Saskatoon has officially opened.
On Friday, a ceremonial ribbon cutting took place on-site at the Pike Lake, Sask., facility as a helicopter with a Bayer banner flew overhead.
“We’re just so pleased that Bayer made the choice to invest here in Saskatchewan,” said Alana Koch, deputy minister of agriculture for the Government of Saskatchewan.
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“It makes a lot of sense; we have over 40 per cent of Canada’s farmland, we have a good diverse crop mix, a good diverse geography where multiple wheat varieties can be grown here. We’re the perfect location.”
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T.J. Harvey, member of parliament for Tobique-Mactaquac New Brunswick, was also in attendance among the crowd of over 130, many of whom were national and internal delegates.
“For us in government it’s exciting to see this type of private sector investment within agriculture because as we all know agriculture is a very strategic pillar in the growth and sustainability of the rural economy and it’s a great day for Canadian farmers.”
In Canada, eight billion dollars worth of wheat is exported every year. What this 21,500 square-foot Bayer facility aims to do is not to reinvent the “kernel” per say just improve it.
“The ultimate goal is to bring really the best wheat hybrids to our Canadian growers and for doing this you need to have a facility like this,” said Dr. Marcus Weidler, head of Seeds Canada for Bayer.
“You have test the products you want to bring to the Canadian market, under Canadian conditions and that’s what this facility does.”
It’s the company’s ongoing commitment to deliver innovative solutions to agriculture, said Weidler, by developing forms of wheat with better resistance to disease and a higher tolerance to stresses like drought.
“If we can have better yields than it helps the farmers to make a sustainable income but also it helps to feed the world,” said Gary Stanford, president of Grain Growers of Canada.
Demand for wheat is rising at double the rate of what is being produced and the worldwide population is expected to top 10 billion by 2050.
“Ultimately, you have more people on this planet but the planet is not growing that means we have to produce, Canadians growers have to produce on a smaller footprint more food and that’s what we’re trying to achieve here,” Weidler said.
Although he admits, new high yielding wheat hybrids won’t happen overnight.
“It’s not like you produce a new product within a year, it takes anywhere between eight and 12 years and that’s also what we are saying when we come up with a new product here, it will be the first half of the next decade, it’s not something for tomorrow.”
Now complete, the facility features laboratories, workshops, office space and 480 acres dedicated for field work. Officials would not say how much the wheat breeding station cost but that $24 million has been invested by Bayer from 2012 to-date across the country.