The ongoing expansion of Elmira Pet Products Ltd. grew a little further last week with the announcement of a $2.7 million investment in the University of Alberta’s new animal nutrition and ingredient development program.
The money will be used to establish and equip the program, which will use a pilot extruder (similar to what the Elmira plant uses to cook ingredients) to research and test products.
“We have a lengthy history in developing nutritional products for cats and dogs, both for our own brands, and we’re also a co-packer or private label manufacturer, which means we make a lot of other people’s brands,” said David Johnston, the company’s chief operating officer.
“With that in mind, we do a lot of the research and development for other companies and ourselves in terms of next wave or new nutrition or what’s better for the animal.”
For the company, whose Elmira facility is equipped for high-volume, high-production equipment, the partnership will make limited test runs easier, Johnston said.
“To do a test run, the first thing we have to do is shut down and run at a very slow pace and cut into production time. Having a small, lab-type extruder somewhere means we don’t have to do that. It means we get more volume, more employment for the area.”
Johnston added that the investment puts EPP “in the lab on a real-world basis” with its academic partners.
“We have relationships at many universities, including University of Guelph, University of Illinois, and obviously the University of Alberta. They all have their own expertise in different research programs. What we’ll be doing is working hand-in-hand with researchers on state-of-the-art development with a fair bit of control from a business aspect.”
He continued, “It keeps our capacity of the plant at the highest possible level. … From a research standpoint, by being at the forefront with leading researchers of the world, and developing the next whatever-that-might-be, our customers will be the first with new products.”
The partnership follows the company’s announcement of a $13 million, five-year infrastructure expansion plan, which it expects will create 25 new jobs. Johnston calls the partnership with the University of Alberta “a big step forward for employment.”