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Canada's first wheat straw facility consulting with producers

CANADA (From news reports) -- Construction has not yet begun on Canada's first wheat straw pulping facility, which is to be built on the west side of Regina starting in 2022.

But Kelowna-based developer Red Leaf Pulp Limited is already consulting with producers in the area to see about buying their straw.

Wheat straw pulp is considered an environmentally friendly alternative to wood pulp, and can be used to make tissues, paper towels, cardboard packaging and other paper products.

Joe Hinz, a representative of Red Leaf Pulp, says he is "very excited" about the possibilities this plant will bring.

"We are looking to invest approximately $350 million into our project in the Regina area," he said. "The land base is going to take up approximately 160 acres, with plans for future expansion as well."

Read Leaf Pulp says the mill will create 110 permanent full-time jobs, as well as 250 jobs during construction.

And while traditional pulp mills are often associated with a strong and unpleasant smell, Hinz says Regina residents will not have to worry about that. Separating fibres from straw is easier than separating fibres from wood, so fewer harsh chemicals need to be used.

"We're going to be pulping wheat and durum straw, so we are not going to have the associated smells with it that you would have with a traditional pulp mill," he said. "You won't even know that we are in your neighbourhood, when it comes to the smell."

Hinz does not expect all producers in the Regina area to want to sell their straw to the mill -- some farms need it for livestock bedding, soil quality retention or even for mushroom production.

But if only a fraction of producers in the area are interested, Hinz says the mill will have plenty of material to work with.

"We are estimating, within an area of 140 kilometers of Regina, we will only need between 10 and 15 per cent of the straw from the cereal acres within that radius," he said.

Representatives from Red Leaf Pulp have been meeting with farmers in that radius to gauge their enthusiasm.

"It's been very good so far," said Hinz. "There is interest in it. They see it as another opportunity to add value to their operations."

In a news release, Regina mayor Sandra Masters said she is pleased the mill is coming to the city.

"This facility allows our city continued diversified growth in the urban-agricultural economy," she said. "It will highlight innovation in one of our core industries, maximize crop value in an environmentally sustainable way and provide valuable jobs in the low carbon energy sector."

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