Pulse promoter predicts growth in favas and green peas

W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions is bringing its expertise in pulses back to P.E.I. and hopes to grow the acreage planted in fava beans and green peas from 20 acres last year, to more than 4,000.

'We feel we can do a lot of good here'

Robert Green (left) watches as Chris Chivilo (centre) and William Wagner grade a sampling of his fava beans. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Chris Chivilo and his wife started coming to P.E.I. on vacation several years ago, and that's when he saw the potential for pulses in his home province.

"I noticed that there were soybeans on the Island," explained Chivilo, president and CEO of W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions, one of Canada's biggest exporters of pulses. 

"I figured some of our crops from out west will likely perform well here

Chivilo's company was instrumental in establishing fava and yellow pea acres in Alberta and one of the first companies to buy from producers and find export markets. 

Robert Green takes a sample of the fava beans he has grown on 40 acres in Bedeque, P.E.I. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Pulses spreading across P.E.I.

​Chivilo started meeting with P.E.I. producers three years ago, with help from research scientists from Agriculture Canada who have been experimenting with pulses at the Research Station in Harrington, P.E.I.

Last year, six producers signed on with fava bean trials and that grew to 17 this year, with fava beans and peas and spread across the Island.

Chivilo hopes to grow the acreage planted in fava beans and green peas from 20 acres last year, to more than 4,000.

William Wagner checks out the roots on the green peas growing back after the harvest in Robert Green's field. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Potato producer Robert Green planted 40 acres each of favas and green peas in Bedeque, P.E.I. He has also just planted a some winter lentils.

Green admits it was a leap of faith, going with the new crops, but he wants see if there is any other cash value to his land besides potatoes. 

"Risk was a big thing," explained Green. "I didn't want to have to put a crop into the ground that I wasn't going to get anything out of it. Something new is always a big risk."

Learning curve to new crops

He left about 40 per cent of the peas in the field when combining them. But on the plus side, they are now growing back and will enrich the soil for next spring. 

"These peas are taking nitrogen out of the air here and putting it into the ground for us," explained Green.

"It's already got a nutrient value in the soil for the next crop and it could possibly mean cutting back on some fertilizer," added Green.

He plans to plant green peas and favas again next year.

"It has potential," observed Green. "I think it's going to be a good thing here for P.E.I."

Robert Green (left) and Chris Chivilo check out the crop of green peas in Bedeque, P.E.I. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Processing plant is next

W. A. Grain and Pulse Solutions now has a full-time presence on P.E.I. Business development manager William Wagner travels the Island, promoting the benefits of pulses.

"I get a lot of phone calls from people to see how things are going that want to be in the program for next year," said Wagner. "I think there's quite a bit of interest for sure."

The green peas are dried out before they are harvested and are exported to India, China and the Middle East. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

There are also even bigger plans in the works. As well as expanding the acreage of pulses next season, the company is actively looking to set up shop on P.E.I.

"We hope to build or buy a facility over the winter to handle cleaning of our pulses," explained Chivilo.  "We hope to expand the acres to somewhere between 4 and 5 thousand acres total, which would justify us building a small plant."

"Eventually we want to turn that into further processing where we would be doing split lentils, split peas, split fava beans, and also making some protein and starch derivatives to sell into the health market," he added.

Year of the Pulse

​Chivilo is involved this year with promoting pulses as part of International Year of the Pulse.

"It's exciting," said Chivilo. "We feel we can do a lot of good here."