by SUSAN MANN
Health food development company, Katan Kitchens, has been selected to appear on the Dragon’s Den television show in March.
The company is seeking funds to develop a gluten-free processing facility potentially in northern Ontario to clean their quinoa varieties, called Quinta, for sales in North American and global markets.
Katan Kitchens has been working on raising funds for a facility for about the past two years. Jamie Draves, the company’s president and CEO, first announced his intention to build a facility in 2013. At the time, he had hoped to have the plant operational in the fall of that year.
However, the plant hasn’t been built yet because he has been going through a capital fundraising campaign, he says. "It's just the challenge of raising the funds to get the facility up and running the way it should be," he says of the development’s delay.
The project has also changed somewhat because his focus isn't solely on processing quinoa, he adds. Once it’s functional, the plant will also process oats, buckwheat and hemp and possibly other crops in the future.
However, the budget for the 8,000 square feet facility remains the same as in 2013 – $2 million to $3 million. He says he almost has all the money raised and his plan is for the processing plant to be completed this summer to be ready for this year's crop. But "we're kind of late now so it could get delayed," he says.
He says the Dragon’s Den show has already been taped but a confidentiality agreement prevents him from revealing details and the outcome of his request.
Dragon’s Den is a show where aspiring entrepreneurs are invited to pitch their business concepts or products to a panel of influential Canadian business people who decide if they want to invest in their ideas. The show featuring Draves airs March 11 at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Draves is currently working with Value Chain Management International Inc. on a multi-year project researching and developing a local value chain for Ontario-grown quinoa. Value Chain Management International helps mainly agriculture and food businesses enhance their long-term profitability and environmental sustainability.
Draves says to develop the quinoa value chain, they’re working with farmers, transport companies, consumers and retailers “to ensure that we have a high-quality crop that fits all of those interests.”
Currently there’s a large demand for quinoa, a gluten-free, highly nutritious cereal grain, both globally and in Canada. “The retail value of quinoa in Canada is well over $50 million a year,” he says.
Most Canadian-consumed quinoa comes from South America. But there are challenges with the quality and purity of South American quinoa. “That’s the opportunity for us in Ontario is to ensure we’re maximizing on that purity of the quinoa and meeting the interests of the food trends, which is high quality, high protein.”
Before Draves started his quinoa project, the crop wasn’t grown commercially in the province. Crops that have been grown so far have been used to “build up our bank and we've been continuing to optimize the quality and the yield," he says.
The crop will be grown on at least 100 acres this year across Ontario. More growers of both organic and conventional quinoa are needed.
Draves says “we go through a system to try to ensure the farmers are set up for success.” Farmers need to have well-drained soil and good weed management practices.
Martin Gooch, CEO of Value Chain Management International, says quinoa is reasonably easy to grow “but challenging to grow well.”
Value Chain Management International is leading the analysis for the project “to identify where opportunities exist to improve the crop’s performance at the farm and processing levels to be able to capture end-market demands more effectively and efficiently,” Gooch says.
He says the project is showing quinoa grows well in Ontario “and we’re just exploring what are the best management practices from production to grading, processing and then sales to consumers.”
Proper processing is key to the crop’s success because if the coating that’s on the seed isn’t removed correctly it is a stomach irritant, he notes. BF