At one point last summer Roquette’s pea protein plant was the largest construction site in the province with about 1,600 tradespeople on the job.
That was in the middle of the pandemic.
But with the 200,000-square-foot plant now in the process of being commissioned — it will have its grand (virtual) opening in November — company officials and staff are very upbeat.
That in itself is a testimony to the determination and expertise — and goodwill — of the French company that is a recognized global leader in the fields having been in the plant protein business for 20 years, longer than anyone else.
Building a $600-million factory to manufacture food products means hygiene (and safety) are very high priorities. Continuing to work at the 67-acre site through the pandemic caused every manner of delay and complications, from equipment being stuck on shipping docks in China, Ontario and Quebec, to construction workers’ lunch trailers needing to be reconfigured for social distancing. The company bought one million masks for construction workers and their families and set up its own asymptomatic testing site for all the workers coming and going from out of the province.
Through it all, it slowed the process down, losing about 20 per cent of productivity.
At the same time, this summer’s drought downsized pea yields in the Prairies. And, prices have doubled.
But Dominique Baumann, CEO for Roquette in Canada, and now head of Roquette’s global plant-based protein operations, said everything about the decision to invest more than half a billion dollars in the factory just south of Simplot’s large potato-processing plant on the outskirts of Portage la Prairie, was a good one.
-Winnipeg Free Press