(from left): Mike Pastir, General Manager, CRF Agritech; Joe Brady, Chief Financial Officer, Pursell; Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; and Casper Kaastra, CEO, Sollio Agriculture.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Photo credit: Oscar LaVerde Photography
On September 18, 2023, Sollio Agriculture, the agri-business division of Sollio Cooperative Group, inaugurated CRF Agritech—its new controlled-release fertilizer production plant in St. Thomas, Ontario.
The project was launched in 2021 after Sollio Agriculture entered into a joint venture with several of its cooperatives in Québec, its Agromart retail partners in Ontario and the Maritimes, and Pursell, a leading fertilizer technology manufacturer based in Alabama.
The opening ceremony was attended by the Honourable Lisa Thompson, the Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), to celebrate access to innovative fertilizers with tremendous agronomic and environmental potential for farmer entrepreneurs.
"Ontario farmers need to access a complete and effective toolbox when it comes to the planting, growing, and harvesting of good-quality crops and food across the province. That is why our government launched the Fertilizer Accelerating Solutions and Technology (FAST) Challenge," said Minister Thompson. "It is awesome to see our challenge embraced by the CRF Agritech plant in St. Thomas, where their efforts have realized a slow-nutrient-release fertilizer coating innovation. It is a great example of how our government is supporting Ontario solutions."
CRF Agritech is the only plant in Canada able to manufacture controlled-release custom fertilizer formulations using Pursell’s unique coating technology.
A $25 Million Investment
With an area of 25,800 square feet, the new controlled-release fertilizer production plant required an investment of over $25 million.
The facility will be responsible for manufacturing next-generation controlled-release fertilizer, including PurYield, for farmers across all of eastern Canada and the northeastern US.
Its plant will also be able to produce other coated fertilizers for uses other than agricultural.
At full capacity, the plant will manufacture over 100,000 metric tons annually.
As part of the Fertilizer Accelerating Solutions & Technology Challenge from OMAFRA, CRF Agritech was awarded a grant of $154,000, which helped speed up production and farmer adoption of this new generation of fertilizer technology.
"Our collaboration with Pursell promotes skills development and knowledge transfer, not only across our retail and cooperative networks but also in the agricultural community. Through innovative coating technology and local fertilizer manufacturing, we expect large-scale adoption in the innovative agricultural product market, such as PurYield, given its agronomic and environmental benefits. We’re proud to be established in the very region where farmers use these products, but also to be committed to sustainable agriculture," said Mike Pastir, the General Manager of CRF Agritech.
Enhanced Yield and Environmental Benefits
The patented technology used at the St. Thomas plant is a controlled-release fertilizer (CRF).
It is used to apply a coating to fertilizer granules with the ability to add micronutrients and biostimulants, providing gradual nutrient release in the soil that is timed according to individual crop needs.
While being more technically advanced than existing products originating from traditional suppliers, these innovative fertilizers offer many additional advantages.
By promoting higher yields through enhanced nutrient uptake by individual plants, there is reduced loss of nutrients through leaching as a result of surplus moisture and excess rainfall. Given the extreme weather events that farmers are facing, this important attribute can improve farm profitability.
In addition, according to the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), the use of coated fertilizer can reduce the quantity of fertilizer needed by up to 30 percent compared with traditional products.
From an environmental standpoint, initial studies conducted by the Sollio Agriculture research team and McGill University show that the use of PurYield fertilizer has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
Additional scientific testing and validation are currently underway.
Initial data from the Sollio Agriculture-McGill University study showed that the use of PurYield could potentially reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 30 percent while increasing field yield. Researchers are currently validating this data.
Lastly, the predictable, precise release curve allows growers to target when plants receive nutrients, minimizing the number of applications across the field and helping mitigate issues related to labour shortages experienced across the entire agricultural industry.
The use of controlled-release fertilizers aligns with the internationally recognized 4R Nutrient Stewardship program's best management practices for responsible and effective management of nutrient resources.
Sollio Agriculture specializes in merchandizing farm inputs and providing value-added services to benefit farmers, cooperatives, and partners. Its business model combines the strength of a local approach with the power of a national presence to offer innovative solutions, promote sustainable farming practices, and help local farming families prosper. For more information, visit www.sollio.ag.
Pursell combines innovative coating materials and proprietary processing techniques with a unique modular production facility design, enabling fertilizer retailers to supply their customers with fully customized nutrient blends that meet crops’ precise needs as they mature through the growing season. Company information is available at www.fertilizer.com.