by Colin Smith
Champion Petfoods is expanding its operations in Morinville with construction of a new $5.9 million product development facility. The 9,500 square foot facility, announced Nov. 17, will be known as the BAFRINO Research and Innovation Centre and will be located behind Champion’s existing administrative offices. The new facility will also create 10 new knowledge-based jobs focused on the development of new pet foods for the company’s ACANA and ORIJEN product lines.
“Innovation has always been at the core of our success,” said Champion PetFoods President and CEO Frank Burdzy. “Although our markets are global, Morinville is our home. We are fortunate and proud to build our new research and innovation facility right here, where our story really began.”
David Marshall, Director of Planning and Development for Champion, says the centre will contain a process space, office space and lab space. “The process space will allow us to develop new product blends.”
The office space will include a private office, workstations for 15 and a lunch and coffee area. The lab will have open space, bench tops and storage. Plans are for the new facility to work closely with the University of Alberta’s new pilot-scale extruder to develop new fresh meat processing technologies that will enable Champion to include more fresh meat in its cat and dog foods.
In line with their trademark Biologically Appropriate™, Champion aims to produce foods that mirror the evolutionary diets of dogs and cats, using fresh regional ingredients including fish and game. “New product blends will be prepared at the centre and sent to the pilot extruder at the University of Alberta for the trial cooking phase,” said Marshall. “This will eliminate the trial cooking phase in our kitchens.”
Morinville Mayor Lisa Holmes hailed the announcement of the new facility to be built in the community. “Economic development is a key priority for our administration,” Holmes said. “Council has worked hard to set the stage for thoughtful growth and it is nice to see millions being invested in our community.”
The development was cited as an example of the positive economic environment in Alberta by Maureen Kubinek, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA and Minister of Culture and Tourism. “This says that you can that you can build and grow a successful company that is also an integral part of the community,” she commented.
Verlyn Olson, Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said forward-thinking entrepreneurs are at the heart of a strong and vibrant rural economy. “Made-in-Alberta businesses such as Champion Petfoods are continuing to succeed because they are investing in innovation, striving for excellence and expanding their market opportunities, while continuing to grow their roots here at home,” said Olson.
Last month Champion Petfoods was recognized as a growing value-added industry in an Alberta government plan for the province’s rural economy.
Released October 28, the Rural Economic Development Action Plan is designed to provide a blueprint for economic success for areas outside of Edmonton and Calgary, particularly communities with less than 25,000 people.
Champion, which employs one of six people who live and work in Morinville, is described as a shining example of a value-added industry that combines local agricultural inputs with international niche marketing.
“As the largest private sector employer in the town, the company’s direct economic impact is tens of millions of dollars to Morinville and hundreds of millions to the Alberta economy,” the report stated.
Construction of the BAFRINO Research and Innovation Centre is expected to begin before the end of the year, with a scheduled opening next spring. The general contractor is Seko Construction Ltd.