A multi-million-dollar grain terminal complex is expected to sprout up along the rail line north of Innisfail later this year.
GrainsConnect Canada is proposing to build a giant grain handling facility with a 35,000-tonne capacity and the ability to offload to a 135-car train in 10 hours. A 2.6-km loop line will come off the main CP Rail line as part of the roughly $30-million complex.
Ten 58-metre high grain storage towers, a spur rail line, weigh scale, support buildings, offices and truck queuing area will be built on 207 acres at the Niobe site, near where a pair of Canada Malting elevators now stand.
The project is only one piece of a $120-million high-throughput grain elevator network that GrainsConnect is building in Western Canada.
GrainsConnect is a joint venture between Australia’s GrainCorp Limited and the U.S. arm of Japan-based Zen-Noh Grain Corporation.
GrainCorp operates the largest grain storage and transport network in Eastern Australia and Zen-Noh is one of Japan’s largest feed grain buyers.
Central Alberta’s part of the project was recently granted a development permit by Red Deer County and construction is expected to begin in April.
GrainsConnect president Warren Stow said GrainCorp owns Canada Malting so they already had a presence in Niobe to build upon.
“We’ve got very good people there on the ground already as far as the elevator staff goes,” said Stow. “We’ve got a good presence in the grower base in that community.”
The older elevators will remain and will serve the company’s barley business, which includes a malt plant in Calgary.
“Those elevators are perfect for that type of business.”
Stow said they are excited about the opportunities Central Alberta presents and are pleased the project has been well received.
“This is just another avenue for (farmers) to market their grain. It’s another option.
“There hasn’t been too many new entrants to the marketplace over the past number of years. It’s some fresh blood.”
GrainsConnect will focus on wheat, barley, canola and peas for destinations in China, Japan and Southeast Asia via the West Coast.
Provincial government foreign investment approval is among a number of other regulatory steps to be cleared. Stow is not anticipating any delays.
Mayor Jim Wood was pleased to see the project.
“It will definitely be a huge benefit to the farming community,” said Wood, who farms in the Elnora area.
“To have another opportunity to market our grain is extremely important,” he said. ”Competition is always great. I look at it as an opportunity for choice.”
Unlike many counties, Red Deer County does not have a large-scale terminal that can move huge amounts of grain quickly.
“I’m still waiting to move grain that I should have moved in December,” he said.
Wood said he often trucks his grain to Kneehill, Lacombe or Mountain View Counties, which adds to transportation costs.
“This is one of the things we definitely needed in this area.”
Building the grain terminals will also provide employment at a time when the oil and gas sector is struggling.
Dozens of construction workers will be on site during the 18-month build and 10 permanent positions created.
GrainsConnect has three other terminals planned, one more in Alberta and two in Saskatchewan. Land negotiations are still underway for the other sites with locations to be announced in the next couple of months.