Photos by Susan Reidy.
“We’ve employed the latest technology to make sure we are the most efficient operator in the Canadian prairies,” said Klaus Pamminger, group general manager, grains, GrainCorp, at ceremonies on July 9 celebrating GrainsConnect’s two new grain facilities in Saskatchewan. “We want to be different, we want to make sure when you deal with GrainsConnect, we are bringing value to you.”
Each facility, located in Maymont and near Wilkie, have the capacity to store 35,000 tonnes of grain and include a 2.7 km loop track that can hold 140 rail cars. They can unload a Super-B truck or 100-tonne rail car in less than five minutes, said Warren Stow, president of GrainsConnect.
So far, its fastest turnaround for a 100-car unit train was about eight and a half hours at the Maymont facility, he said. Both facilities have a receiving capacity of about 625 tonnes per hour and a rail loadout capacity of 2,000 tonnes per hour.
Maymont has already loaded 15 trains since December 2017. Wilkie started receiving grain in mid-March and shipped its first train in June.
Part of GrainsConnect’s efficiency comes from its rail system and work with CN. The 100-car trains come into the loop with the power on, and are turned over to the GrainsConnect team for loading, said Jay Roberts, a CN executive who spoke during the grand opening in Maymont. In 14 hours or less, that team is done and the train is turned back over to CN.
“This is really the high efficiency model for Canadian grain elevators. It is the new model and our new standard,” Roberts said. “There’s a power switch right off the main line, which allows our trains to come in without the conductor having to get off. That improves safety and increases efficiency.”
In addition, GrainsConnect owns two complete sets of rail cars, which eliminates concerns about car availability, particularly during peak times.
“We believe you and your team, with your partners have really positioned yourself and Canadian farmers for growth in the future,” Roberts said.
Grain is coming into the GrainsConnect facilities from a 100 km radius, Stow said.
“For us, the focus is wheat, barley, canola and some peas,” he said. “Wheat and canola is the bulk of the grain that is grow in this area.”
Grain is shipped to multiple destinations including Vancouver, the U.S. and eastern Canada, he said.
GrainsConnect is a joint venture that was formed in 2015 by Australian-based GrainCorp and Zen-Noh Grain Corp., a subsidiary of Japanese agricultural cooperative, Zen-Noh.
“It’s exciting to join forces with GrainCorp, who has been a friend and trading partner with Zen-Noh for many years,” said John Williams, president and CEO of Zen-Noh Grain Corp., during a grower reception following the ribbon cutting ceremonies. “It’s a real good marriage of two solid, global companies with the same mission and the same personalities who certainly will want to take care of their end users.”
For decades, Zen-Noh Grain has been a bridge between U.S. farmers and Japanese end users, and now Canadian farmers have been added, he said.
“That bridge to now a different group of farmers with different commodities, through this system all the way to Zen-Noh is perfect,” Williams said. “I can’t wait until we get it fully built out and fully functional.”
Additional GrainsConnect facilities are under construction in Huxley and Vegreville, Alberta.