It was a big event for a significant business in Bashaw.
The official grand opening of the new Bashaw Seed Cleaning Co-op plant on the east side of town took place July 17, attracting more the 200 farmers, town residents and dignitaries for tours, a brief ribbon cutting ceremony and lunch.
The new facility has around 2.5 times the capacity of the former site, located a few blocks northwest, and began operating back in January after more than a year of being under construction.
The project got started in 2016, following a $3.5 million loan from Camrose County along with a $1 million county contribution to go with around $1.6 million from the co-op through cash and the sale of existing assets. Actual construction didn’t get underway until late 2016.
“The biggest thing with the new plant is the capacity. We can now deal with the overall volumes that farmers now have,” explained Bill Sinclair, plant manager, who also oversaw the facility’s construction.
“We don’t have to work 24 hours a day — that was the biggest problem with the old plant. The equipment was too small, the space was limited, so we couldn’t get any bigger, couldn’t up-size, couldn’t take any new customers and couldn’t serve people any better.”
Sinclair added the project benefited from a slower economy, enabling them to utilize a number of local skilled workers and trades that not only helped cut costs, but kept as many local contractors in business.
“The biggest thing is we tried to use as much local business talent as we could. A lot of local people did a lot of quality work for us. It really was a community project,” he said.
“We are proud to have spent as much on local workers as possible. We were also fortunate with our timing and that saved us a lot.
“As well, without the county this would have been a lot tougher and it may not have gone through like it did.”
He also thanked his wife for putting up with everything the past few years as the project grew as well as the main contractor and the project engineer.
“It was a challenge and very rewarding,” he said, “but I won’t take on another project like this for as long as I live.”
Co-op president Corey Kasa thanked Sinclair, Camrose County and the co-op’s provincial body — Alberta Seed Processors (formerly the Alberta Association of C0-op Seed Cleaning Plants) — for ensuring this new facility came about.
“I want to thank, most importantly, Camrose County because without their financial support none of this would have been possible,” Kasa said during his speech.
“The board also thanks Bill, as we gave him free reign and he did a great job. As well, our provincial board got us started on this with lots of encouragement to improve the industry and that kickstarted our board. My hope for you farmers is that this meets and hopefully exceeds your expectations.”
Camrose County area councillor Jack Lyle was joined at the event by fellow councillor Greg Gillespie and CAO Paul King, all of whom complimented what has been accomplished and what an honour it was to be a partner in the project.
“I have been in favour of this project for years and it’s well worth having. The town and farmers will benefit and the county and administration is happy to support this by backing the financing,” said Gillespie.
“Thanks to the board members for getting this done and very special thanks to Sinclair. He did a great job of talking us into this great thing. It will last for years, benefit generations of farmers and is a terrific example of how agriculture has grown.”
Bashaw town councillor Rosella Peterman and Alberta Seed Processors board chair Dan Brachmann also spoke, mentioning how this new facility will be an asset well into the future.
The plant actually began operation back in January and, according to Sinclair, there has been a few glitches, but overall things are going as anticipated. He stated it is now a lot easier to schedule with no more 24 hour days hauling and receiving.
One other unique aspect is the facility has little automated processes, something Sinclair noted was by design.
“It’s our board’s belief, and mine, that being in the pedigreed seed cleaning business, you need to be hands-on. Automation allows one to be somewhat removed from a task,” he said.
”There are less complications when it comes to fixing issues and repairs are easier and faster. Plus, a person can hear and feel things going on when you are hands-on and not doesn’t come as a surprise.”