As a result of years of consolidation and technology-advancement, most producers are ready for a new wave of crop-specialization. Together with advances in farming-methods, many farms now have plenty of bin-capacity to store specialty-crops, in isolation to preserve their identity. Some crops will not need further cleaning or grading, thus can be loaded into containers before even leaving the farm-gates, to be shipped to final destinations through the necessary intermodal channels. But most other crops will need further preparation before they can be exported.
With the initial rush to pulses small operations were quick to emerge to get crops ready to ship to end-markets. In time larger grain-companies developed, or entered the market, with the capacity to not only clean and grade but also package pulses to be shipped in containers. Similarly, in recent years small businesses surfaced to handle other specialty crops for export purposes -- clean, grade, test, bag and containerize. These services were viable at modest scale and added little to final costs, but some went by the way side because the steady volumes could not be sustained.
Naturally, if we are successful in our mission, there will not only be large volumes but also steady flows to sustain continuous operations. Most handling functions are not terribly complex but lend themselves to automation, and by deploying advanced equipment much higher crop quality standards can be achieved. The scale does not have to be terribly large but process requirements can vary greatly by crop-type. Though we have a number of facility and equipment concepts in mind, specific plans will depend on the actual crop-mix generated by our trade-facilitation efforts.
We are open to alternative business-models to service the crop-trades we generate, contracted out to other service providers or consolidated under our own roof, to meet the required crop-quality standards and export delivery obligations. Initially we can operate in a distributed structure with third-party service providers at different locations. But eventually we will try to consolidate most services under the same roof at rail-intermodal-terminals, with functionality suitable to the crop-mix in that area -- run by our logistics-partner, with third-party service providers as necessary.
Grain Service Inventory:
A Catalogue of Service Providers
There are numerous small private firms servicing the grain-industry -- cleaning, grading, testing, bagging, container-loading, etc. We are now conducting an exhaustive survey of these service providers, and inviting them to register on this portal with a brief description of their service offerings. Soon we will develop a system to classify/categorize them with "profiles".
Grain Processing Centre:
A new industrial park serving the grain-industry
Quite a few years ago (early 1990s) we conducted a study for the Saskatchewan Government to look at barriers/constraints to containerized-exports. We had recommended the development of an inland-container-port (GTH in Regina). It did not quite evolve into what we had in mind as a service-center. But now we are reviving this initiative, at GTH or near another intermodal-terminal.