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Blackfalds milk processing plant on track for 2025 completion date

Site activity ramping up following selection of lead contractor
An artist's rendering of the $67 million dairy processing plant underway in Blackfalds that will open marketing options for Western Canada dairy producers.

A massive plant being built in central Alberta will mean a leaner, greener processing sector for Western Canada’s dairy industry.

Dairy Innovation West, slated for a 15-acre site in Blackfalds, broke ground in August. Owned by dairy producers across Western Canada, it will be able to process up to 300 million litres of milk a year on completion in 2025.

“It’s the first of its kind in Canada,” said Nolan Berg, CEO of the Western Milk Pool, which is leading the project on behalf of the five dairy organizations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Originally announced in 2019, the plant will produce cream and a range of concentrates that will reduce shipping costs for producers. The cost is estimated at $67 million, up from an initial estimate of $50 million, but a smaller increase than some other projects have seen.

Dairy producers in Western Canada currently spend about $100 million annually to move milk around the region, a huge cost to producers with a direct impact on their bottom lines. By reducing costs for producers and creating dairy products secondary processors want, Berg said the plant will check plenty of boxes.

“[Concentration] can replace up to four trucks,” Berg told dairy producers meeting in Vancouver this week. “That’s a win-win on cost reduction, that’s a win-win on sustainability.”

Components from the plant can be shipped to further processors such as Vitalus Nutrition Inc. in Abbotsford, which will operate the Blackfalds plant on completion.

The design-build construction process is managed by Pacific Process Canada Ltd. The plant broke ground in August, with Chandos Construction the lead contractor.

The plant isn’t the only major dairy project taking shape in Western Canada. Punjab Milk Foods Inc. of Surrey recently announced plans to build a 293,000-square-foot plant in Surrey. The facility will consolidate several existing locations into a single facility that will be more productive while supporting 300 jobs in Metro Vancouver.

Both projects follow the opening of Saputo’s state-of-the art milk plant in Port Coquitlam in August 2021 that allowed it to consolidate its existing plants in BC into a single modern facility built at a cost of $240 million.