According to Mandy Huska, Yara is developing low-carbon “green nitrogen” made with hydrogen.
“We are possibly the largest fertilizer company in the world that nobody knows about,” laughs Mandy Huska, Vice President of Yara Canada in Regina.
It’s strange because Yara, a Norwegian plant nutrition company, has been in Canada for more than 20 years. It owns and operates a nitrogen production facility in Belle Plaine, Sask. – One of the newest plants in North America and one of the largest single-line pelletizers on the continent.
Yara Canada also owns and operates a huge dry fertilizer import terminal facility in Contrecoeur, Que., And as Huska explains, the Belle Plaine facility accounts for around a third of western Canada’s nitrogen production. “Urea, UAN, and anhydrous ammonia production remains in the prairies and northern US,” she says. Yara is also celebrating its 75th anniversary in North America this year.
That’s pretty impressive for a company whose name, after all these years, still comes as a surprise to some. For one, Huska says that Yara’s commitment to Canadian farmers doesn’t start and end with impressive facilities. “We’d like to be seen as a plant nutrition company rather than a fertilizer company,” she says. “For this reason we have invested in hiring agronomists and a plant manager in recent years. We share our global and local knowledge of plant nutrition with our retail partners and their farmers through farmer meetings, trials, our YouTube channel and now our research farm in Saskatoon. “
Yara came to Western Canada through the purchase of Saskferco’s Belle Plaine manufacturing facility in 2008. Huska points out that the rapeseed acreage began at exactly the time sparked by large investments in new seed processing facilities and R&D facilities.
“With the expansion of the rapeseed fields in Saskatchewan, we were able to maintain nitrogen production here,” she says. “It’s really about the distance to the market – the further a product has to travel, the more it deteriorates. So we produce a very high quality product that we produce around the clock and that is available around the clock.”
While macronutrients are the foundation of Yara, the company has gone to great lengths to develop micronutrient technologies that are straightforward and effective at increasing crop yields.
“We’re not trying to make money fast, we’re here for the long term and we’re working really hard to help producers get more out of their plant nutrition programs.” Mandy Huska, Yara Canada
“A fraction of the hectares in western Canada are treated with micronutrients,” says Huska. She believes part of this stems from the science that micronutrients are not well communicated or understood – as words like “snake oil” were popularized in the early days of the micros.
“My goal is to make this term disappear,” says Huska. “We want to give this area more validity, which is why everything we make has been approved by the CFIA. We’re not trying to make money fast, we’re here for the long term and we’re working really hard to help producers get more out of their plant nutrition program. “
She refers to YaraVita® PROCOTE ™ as an example of this commitment. “It’s an oil-based micronutrient coating that is applied to dry fertilizer products for a complete mix of nutrients,” she says.
Essentially, with PROCOTE, micronutrients are applied to granular fertilizers in almost any combination that a producer could wish for – of individual micronutrient products (boron, copper, manganese, zinc) or a mixture of all four – depending on the specific harvest requirements.
“Basically, we use the granular fertilizer to deliver a complete micronutrient package,” says Huska. “It really improves the overall quality of the fertilizers that farmers are already using – it’s a cornerstone for farmers when it comes to micronutrient use.”
Sustainability is important
“The global interest in sustainability and climate change will likely have an impact on the way we grow food in the future,” says Huska. “Yara is committed to ensuring that farmers can continue to grow enough food to feed the world responsibly. We’re already doing good things with 4R Nutrition Stewardship in Western Canada, but we could also explore tools and products that will promote improved nutrient use efficiency. “
The focus on sustainability does not mean that farmers use less fertilizer, but that they use it more efficiently. According to Huska, products like YaraVara® AMIDAS®, a homogeneous form of nitrogen and sulfur, do just that. “With more uniform access to the nutrients, we increase usage efficiency.”
The company is also aiming for future innovations in nitrogen production, such as switching to “green ammonia”, which is produced in a low-carbon process using hydrogen. “We are committed to green ammonia and a hydrogen economy, and we’re helping convert some facilities,” says Huska, adding that the company is ready to work with others to make this happen.
“We want to help farmers keep growing the food people need in the most sustainable way,” she says.
What Would a Farmer Do?
The 80-acre Yara Incubator Farm in Saskatoon is a communal research space, in which, according to Huska, ideas will be tested under real conditions.
“With the incubator farm, we can bring retailers and farmers together to demonstrate strategies for plant nutrition,” she says. “I want things to come out that farmers might consider but don’t have the time or willingness to experiment on their own farm. Can we test differences in fertilizer quality on this farm? I think we could. “
The farm, operated by GFM in partnership with Discovery Farm, operates a three-year rotation of wheat or barley, canola and peas. “We can transform what we see in small plots into a real field-scale environment,” says Huska.
“Our goal is to mimic what a farmer would do and point out simple changes and practices that will help them get a better result. It fills a knowledge gap. We want to be able to demonstrate nutrition for the future – that is our job. “
The next 75 years
Yara is celebrating 75 years in North America this year – a significant milestone and Huska is proud of the Canadian part of that story.
“From a western Canadian perspective, we’ve contributed a lot to the Saskatchewan economy,” she says. “And we’ve contributed to communities in the west, supporting organizations like STARS, food banks, and community centers.
“We have a great team of people to help you with four local sales agronomists in Western Canada, a harvest manager and three regional sales managers,” she says. “Whether you need a micronutrient, a macronutrient, or just some help getting more yield, we can help.”