Entrepreneur studies gluten-free oats production

Ontario entrepreneur Jamie Draves is no stranger to building a grain production and processing infrastructure system since he is successfully doing it with quinoa.

Now Draves, president and CEO of health food development company Katan Kitchens, has turned his sights on developing a certified gluten-free oats production and processing system in northern Ontario. Draves received $19,200 from the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Grains Innovation Fund for his pilot project.

Launched in 2010, the Grains Innovation Fund supports projects that open new or expand markets for Ontario grains, along with ones that promote Ontario grains as the best choice, increase premiums for Ontario grains, promote novel uses of identity-preserved varieties or find uses for crop residues.

Opportunity

Draves says he wants to develop a certified gluten-free oats production and processing system because he believes “there’s an opportunity to build off of the value chain we did for quinoa and to develop a multi-crop processing facility.”

He also sees a great opportunity “in gluten-free oats in northern Ontario that we haven’t taken advantage of and an opportunity that will benefit everyone in the value chain.”

Draves says he’s using the money from the fund to assess the opportunity and to find a less expensive gluten-free certification process for growers.

“We’re trying to lower their costs for certification and improve the system to ensure that it meets the standards for gluten-free,” he notes.

Lots of applicants

Nicole Mackellar, GFO market development manager, says since the program launched in 2010, GFO usually gets 30 to 40 applications a year. GFO has handed out more than $900,000 in funding to 35 projects since 2010.

Successful applicants can get funding for up to 60 per cent of their project’s cost, to a maximum of $50,000.

Mackellar says the number of applicants receiving approval for their projects varies each year and depends on the size and scope of projects. Some years, a couple of projects get approved, while in other years multiple applicants get the green light to proceed.

New food uses

Many of the projects have developed new domestic food uses for Ontario grains, such as projects to introduce an Ontario wheat-based tortilla chip and an Ontario corn-based tortilla chip.

“We’ve also supported a number of export projects that are really increasing the profile of Ontario grains in international markets,” she says.

Bottom line

There’s still time. Applications are due Nov. 6. More information about the fund and the application process is available on the GFO website.

Article by: Susan Mann