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Research council enhances focus of cereal industry

Width and breadth of industry involved.


November 12, 2007
By Ralph Pearce

10aThe Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council is just two years old but already
boasts seven high profile members to help with its mandate to boost the cereal
industry through knowledge and innovation. First developed in 2002 and incorporated
in 2004, the council has set its sights on injecting new life and new ideas
into what is considered to be an aging industry. According to Henry Olechowski,
research director with Hyland Seeds in Blenheim, Ontario, the injection will
come from a co-operative effort with the University of Guelph, with the ultimate
goal of encouraging graduates to enter the cereal industry, particularly with
member companies.

The member's list currently includes General Mills Canada, Griffith Laboratories,
Hyland Seeds, Kraft Canada, New Life Mills, the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing
Board and Rich Products of Canada. While Rich Products is based in Buffalo,
New York, the council's focus is centred squarely on the Ontario industry. It
should not be confused with the Technical Wheat Committee, formed in the mid
to late 1980s to address issues surrounding hard red wheats.

Instead, the Research Council will address issues particular to the soft wheat
trade, including the functionality of proteins that is causing a 'blurring'
of the lines between hard and soft wheats at the processing level. "We
wanted some research done to look at that functionality in the soft wheats,"
says Olechowski. "And we wanted a type of clearing house that would be
familiar with the latest research on a worldwide basis, to keep the Ontario
producers and processors competitive."

The council's operating objectives range from promoting research in cereal
grains produced primarily in Ontario to sponsoring research programs and chairs
at universities to advance knowledge and application of cereal science for Ontario's
demands. It is also encouraging more graduates to consider cereal science as
a career choice as well as enhancing the skills of those currently engaged in
the industry.

"Since we have some infrastructure with the Guelph Food Technology Centre
and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and support from plant science in their
genetics component and biochemistry components, we thought we could build synergies,"
says Olechowski. "The other point was these graduate students could be
doing practical internships with member companies so when they graduate it's
a seamless entry into the company."

Thus far, the council has managed to raise $500,000 from its members and is
awaiting final word on a grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research
Council (NSERC) which would provide matching funds.