Laying a foundation for Canada’s pulse industry

Today we know more about how to make the pulse industry grow, thanks to a decade of Cigi research

It was 10 years ago that the Canadian International Grains Institute launched its pulse-processing and specialty milling facility, and since then, Cigi’s pulse activity on behalf of the Canadian industry has leapt ahead.

“There was a need in Canada to add value to pulses by processing domestically,” says Peter Frohlich, project manager for pulses and special crops at Cigi. “Initially, Cigi worked with Saskatchewan Pulse Growers and Manitoba Pulse Growers to develop a project which started with assessing quality and with developing methods for dehulling and splitting pulses effectively and efficiently.”

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The project, called Enhancing Markets for Canadian Pulses Through Secondary Processing and Value Added Research, was designed to develop and transfer knowledge to the industry and set up a program at Cigi to provide ongoing support to the Canadian pulse value chain.

Cigi worked closely with the Canadian pulse industry and organizations including Pulse Canada which provided direction on research based on industry activity, Frohlich says. Dehulling and splitting crops such as peas and lentils evolved into milling pulses and adding the resulting flour to food products.

“It was basic feasibility work, at the start of the project, to see how much flour could be added to a wheat-based processed food product to retain quality and enhance nutrition,” Frohlich says. “The idea was that pulses are healthy and their use as ingredients would increase consumption and in the long run increase returns to producers and open up new markets for Canadian pulses.”

This early work generated information such as the inclusion of pulse flour in pasta at 30 per cent as the optimum level to maintain colour, flavour and texture. These results also laid the foundation for Cigi’s four-year Pulse Milling and Utilization Project in 2010, Frohlich says. While pulse area work continued to focus on pulse quality and new varieties, the new project investigated the effects of milling methods on functionality of pulse flours as ingredients in food product applications such as baked goods, Asian noodles, extruded snacks and batter-coated products.

Yellow pea spaghetti.

Yellow pea spaghetti.
photo: Cigi

Over the past several years, pulse activity has included testing and evaluation on behalf of pulse breeders, farmers and processors. Project work has been directed by an industry advisory committee and funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs and grower organizations.

Cigi also serves on the Prairie Grain Development Committee special crops subcommittee which makes recommendations on new pulse varieties for registration.

Heather Maskus, project manager for Cigi pulse flour milling and food applications, agrees on the importance of industry collaboration which continues to grow. As manager of the Pulse Milling and Utilization Project, Maskus is currently overseeing a followup project, Advancing Pulse Flour Processing and Applications, which involves optimizing the nutritional quality of food products made using pulse flours as ingredients through roller milling and other pre- and post-milling processing methods.

Maskus says the project will place more emphasis on nutrition and on linking pulse applications in food with current pulse nutrition research.

Maskus also notes that the Pulse Milling and Utilization Project and other pulse work has helped build a foundation of knowledge that Cigi has shared with industry and other researchers, both domestically and internationally. The activity has contributed to a greater awareness of the potential of pulses and has drawn increasing interest from industry, producers, government and universities for testing or collaboration on value-added projects.

“Cigi’s pulse team has covered a lot of area in a short time, and now companies are approaching us more often to learn about food applications for pulses,” Maskus says. “Cigi’s pilot facilities and other technology staff have all helped to make this work possible. It’s been quite the evolution.”

This article was originally published as “Foundation work” in the September 2015 issue of Country Guide

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