C-Merak is rebuilding the connection between farmers and consumers and making new connections to sustainably produce healthy food.
Brett Casavant, C-Merak’s CEO, is a fourth-generation farmer who began his entrepreneurial journey by expanding the family farm near Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Rather than simply expand the farm’s land base, he wanted to add more value to the crops they were growing.
“We felt there was a real disconnect between customers, who are the people who eat the food, and the people who grow the food. So, we really want to strengthen the bond between producers and consumers by moving up the value chain closer to the end user.”
He was driven to unlock the potential of locally grown crops by processing them into higher value ingredients.
“We first got into grain procurement, which was a really good way to ensure grain quality. Then we moved into value-added dry milling, where we clean the grain, dehull the grain, and grind it into powders to make a functional ingredient,” he explains.
C-Merak’s new processing plant is creating protein concentrates, flours, and other food ingredients from faba beans and oats. While focused on making raw ingredients for now, Casavant says, “we want to work with our customers to take those ingredients to the next level by improving the performance, functionality, and sensory attributes that will ultimately create better quality food products on store shelves.”
He describes the company’s relationship with its customers as a closed loop. “We select the varieties. We select the growers. We clean and store the beans and oats in our terminal. And finally, we create our ingredients right here, at the source, using the best, most sustainable feedstock to ensure quality and a traceable connection back to the farm,” he explains.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything C-Merak does. Casavant says farmers are naturally sustainable (they have to be to survive), but he wants sustainability to be a priority throughout the value-added process. “Consumers deserve access to food that is both healthy and environmentally sustainable. Our ingredients are 100 percent natural. We do not use any chemicals or additives. We keep our footprint light by being energy efficient, using very little water and not generating any waste. Our motto is, ‘healthy people, healthy planet.’ We are trying to produce healthy ingredients for people, but in a way that is good to the planet.”
Casavant says the number one reason C-Merak has focused on faba beans is because it is one of the most sustainable crops they can grow. “Faba beans have higher protein than any of the other legumes we can grow. They naturally fix more nitrogen in the soil than they take out, which revitalizes the land. And they’re very nutritious: packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals that are critical to our diets,” he explains.
Similarly, C-Merak works with oats because it is the healthiest cereal crop they can grow in their area. “We picked the healthiest legume and the healthiest cereal as our base ingredients,” he says. “They are great as separate ingredients and they also complement each other, especially on the amino acid profile side of things.”
He describes C-Merak as “a cog in the circular agriculture wheel” that creates opportunities and benefits for the Tisdale area and beyond.
“Not only do we feel like we’re very strong millers—we have some world-class techniques for sure—but we also have growers in the area that can give us some of the best feedstock in the world,” he explains. “Transforming these locally grown crops creates new local markets for producers. It creates jobs and economic benefits for the community. It helps grow Saskatchewan’s value-added sector and attract other processors into the region. Agriculture is really an ecosystem, where working together can yield exponential results.”
Joining Ag-West Bio has been instrumental in helping C-Merak develop its business and make connections in Saskatchewan’s ag-biotech community. “Whether it be industry contacts, advisory input, or thoughts around commercialization, Ag-West Bio has really helped us create a strong foundation for the future,” says Casavant.
“We started to get opportunities to go to networking events, training courses they put on, and listen to speakers through their network. They’ve created connections for us that would have otherwise been hard to build.”
As the company continues to grow and develop, C-Merak’s vision is “connecting everything in our process, right from the seed through to the final ingredient,” and partnering with others who share their vision for a healthier future.
Photo: Brett Casavant, CEO of C-Merak
This article is from Ag-West Bio’s 2022-23 Annual Report.
Contact us if you would like a printed copy