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This article was published 17/6/2010 (2534 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WASKADA -- Many of us can still remember when our parents used to bring home those big red boxes of Carnation skim milk powder.
It was like having a cow in the cupboard. You just dumped a cup of powder in a jug, filled it with cold water and stirred. You never ran out of milk.
A southwestern Manitoba company hopes to introduce a similar product in six months but for milk alternative Hemp Moo.
Farm Genesis has been working on a milk alternative powder mix using super healthy hemp seed after market research showed milk alternatives like 'silk' (soy milk) are one of the fastest growing food items in grocery stores.
The Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie developed the liquid product and Farm Genesis has been selling Hemp Moo for some time.
"The trade shows are crazy about the hemp milk," said Keith Hannah, Farm Genesis president. It's like milk, a little watery like skim milk but creamier tasting, if that's not an oxymoron, with a hint of nut flavour from the hemp seeds.
But two problems arose: People weren't willing to pay a retail price of $2 to $3 for 250 millilitres (about a cupful) of Hemp Moo in a juice box.
The other problem is the company is shipping 90 per cent water. By turning it into a powder, it makes Hemp Moo much more affordable.
Farm Genesis grabbed headlines earlier this year when the federal government gave it a $5-million loan guarantee.
From a distance, it looked like Ottawa funding another hemp processor in another Tory riding. Manitoba already had Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils in Winnipeg, Hemp Oil Canada in Ste. Agathe, and plans for a new hemp fibre plant in Gilbert Plains.
That's the first thing Hannah addresses in an interview. "We're not a hemp company. We're a value-added company," he said. Hemp just happens to be its first product.
Farm Genesis aims to become the Peak of the Market of processed foods, marketing Manitoba food products under its brand name.
Manitoba produces many food items. Companies and farmers and mom-and-pop operations take their ideas to the Food Development Centre, which helps develop them into marketable commercial products.
But many of the products don't last long on store shelves because it's so tough to make a name, said Markus Schmulgen, Farm Genesis manager and former business development manager at the Food Development Centre.
Now those products could be marketed under the Farm Genesis umbrella. The company has spent oodles growing its name in the United States and Europe, and another campaign is planned in July.
"We want to produce every kind of food that's healthy for you out of here," said Schmulgen.
Hannah and Schmulgen also point out Farm Genesis has been investing its own money long before Ottawa -- and the province, with $75,000 -- got involved. "I've been in government. That's very, very refreshing," said Schmulgen.
Which begins to answer a third question. Farm Genesis is in Waskada, a town of just 200 people in the very corner of southwestern Manitoba, in Conservative MP Merv Tweed's riding of Brandon-Souris.
"Why out here? These farmers put up the money," said Schmulgen.
Some 32 farmers invested their money to create the company. The thinking is simply there is so much more money to be made from value-added products, than from raw products such as wheat and barley.
It's starting lineup of hemp products includes a hemp and seabuckthorn energy bar, and hemp-roasted seeds and hemp protein powder.
So far, Sobey's, Federated Co-op and almost every small town grocery in Manitoba is carrying Farm Genesis products.
"Hemp, we think, is right now where flax was a few years back," said Schmulgen. "It's the best plant-based protein you can get into the body.
Farm Genesis hopes to have milk powder in about six months, about the same time it hopes to open its new $3.7-million plant. The plant may employ eight people. It will have a variety of production lines, including cold presses and the ability to make gel caps. The margin on selling organic pills in gel caps is over 1,000 per cent, versus three to four per cent selling bulk seed.
Canadian hemp seed exports have increased by 300 per cent and hemp oil exports by 85 per cent over the past few years. Hemp has been grown legally in Canada since 1998.