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IW Business Bulletin – August 26, 2022

Saskatchewan Research Council produces first metal ingots

On Aug. 26, the Saskatchewan Research Council presented Min. Jeremy Harrison with the first metal ingots produced in Canada. The first-ever Canadian-produced ingots were processed at SRC’s Rare Earth Processing Facility during a test run of its metals smelting unit. The metal ingot are a rare earth metal that is used in the manufacture of permanent magnets, needed for electric vehicles, electronics, wind turbines and more.

“This milestone shows the incredible progress that SRC is making towards a key element of our Government’s 2030 Growth Plan and in fact, now actually exceeds that original objective,” Minister Responsible for SRC Jeremy Harrison said. “Our investments into this Facility are already starting to show impacts that will be highly valuable over the coming decades.”

The Rare Earth Processing Facility, still under construction, is the first-of-its-kind in North America and will produce REE products for sale internationally in 2024, including individual rare earth oxides and didymium metals.

“SRC is proud to be a world leader in rare earth element processing and separation technologies and now to be able to add metal processing to that list, is an incredible accomplishment,” SRC President and CEO Mike Crabtree said. “The production of rare earth metal is a very important, strategic step for the Facility, for Saskatchewan and in establishing a rare earth supply chain in Canada.”

Saskatchewan poised for growth

The Conference Board of Canada released new research on Aug. 24, forecasting gross domestic product (GDP) growth through 2024 for the Canadian provinces. Saskatchewan and Alberta are projected to lead growth, at 7.6 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively, for 2022. The forecast also notes that in Saskatchewan, 2023 should see 4.1 per cent GDP growth in 2023 and 2.4 per cent in 2024. The predictions are based on increases in the commodity sector, and recovery from last year’s drought.

“Continuing high inflation will likely cause households to tighten their purse strings in the latter part of 2022, with spending habits tapering once consumers have exercised their repressed travel urges,” said Ted Mallet, director of economic forecasting at The Conference Board of Canada. “While there is the possibility of a recession, our view is that a ‘growth plateau’ is a better description of the economy slowing in response to the Bank of Canada’s inflation battle, before picking up again in 2023.”

Saskatoon determines two possible sites for new arena

The City of Saskatoon has chosen two sites as possibilities for a new arena. Under consideration are the north parking lot of Midtown Plaza, and the north downtown city yards parking lot. A report will be presented on Aug. 29 to City Council with a technical study of the locations. Five sites were examined with the Midtown and City Yards locations being viable options. The proposed arena will be an anchor for the future planned Downtown Event & Entertainment District.

“Based on the technical criteria, the Midtown location is the highest scoring site and affirmed by two external consultants,” said Dan Willems, director of technical services at the City of Saskatoon. “The public engagement will be an opportunity to hear from residents, businesses and other community partners on the opportunities and challenges of both potential sites. The public feedback, along with the technical rankings, will give City Council the information it needs to make the final decision on the event centre/arena location.”

If City Council approves the plan to consider the sites, the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback from August 30 to October 3.

Ceres Global Ag Corp. announces new president and CEO

Ceres Global Ag Corp. announced on Aug. 23 that Robert Day stepped down as president and CEO, and will be replaced by Carlos Paz, effective immediately. Day will support the company over the next few months as a consultant.

“Leading this company and our dedicated employees since 2016 has been an immense honor,” said Day. “I look forward to working with Carlos to ensure a smooth transition and I am confident in his ability to build upon what Ceres has developed thus far. Especially in the current environment, Carlos’s deep industry expertise, operational excellence and experience in supply chain management will prove invaluable as the Company leverages its newly added assets to create value for its customers.”

Paz, the incoming president and CEO, joined Ceres Global Ag in January 2020 as vice president and commercial director.

“I am honored and excited to be leading Ceres.” said Paz. “I am eager to continue working with our strong network and building on Ceres’ vision to partner with farmers and other suppliers to enable our customers to do great things in the food, agriculture and energy markets.”

Ceres is based in Minneapolis, Minn. and operates 13 locations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota. In June 2022, the company announced it was pausing its plans for a canola crushing project at Northgate, Sask. due to rising costs and changing economic conditions.

Emmertech invests in Vive Crop Protection and BarrelWise

Vive Crop Protection, the Mississauga-based agtech firm, announced the close of its Series C investment round, worth USD $26 million. The round, led by Saskatchewan’s Emmertech, had participation from from the Cibus funds, and existing investors Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Export Development Canada (EDC), and Urbana Corporation. Vive has also secured debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank for capital, and will have a second close in the next quarter for additional investors needing more time for due diligence.

“The investment by Emmertech, the Cibus funds, and existing investors, and the debt financing provided by Silicon Valley Bank underscores our success in delivering innovative solutions to farmers,” said Darren Anderson, CEO at Vive Crop Protection. “We’re extremely excited about how these new relationships will propel our business to the next level, including into global markets.”

Vive will use the funds to support commercial deployment of its products into new markets in North America.

“We are thrilled to be backing Vive’s outstanding team and the trust they’ve built among farmers with solutions that are efficient, sustainable, and profitable. We look forward to supporting Vive with their R&D infrastructure and entrance into global markets,” said Kyle Scott, managing director of Conexus Venture Capital & Emmertech.

Emmertech also invested in Vancouver’s BarrelWise, closing a seed funding round on Aug. 22. The round was led by Conexus Venture Capital through Emmertech, with additional funding from Ag Capital Canada.

“We are thrilled to be working with some of the largest and most innovative winery groups in the world to refine our FS1 product,” said Jason Sparrow, CEO of BarrelWise. “With this investment from our partners Emmertech and Ag Capital Canada, we look forward to making high-precision quality control the global standard for wine barrel and tank management.”

BarrelWise is a technology company working with the wine industry, providing measurement and data systems to improve efficiency in winemaking.

“With our Emmertech fund, we love finding opportunities in the world of agriculture where innovators are bringing speed and simplicity to solving problems across the supply chain,” said Sean O’Connor, Managing Director of Conexus Venture Capital & Emmertech. “BarrelWise places the traditionally slow and expensive lab process of identifying SO2 levels directly into the cellar. Couple this innovative solution with a top-tier founding team, led by
Jason Sparrow, and we feel we’ve got a real gem of a company added into our portfolio.”

Saskatoon’s Skyxe John G. Diefenbaker International Airport sees investment from Government of Canada

Saskatoon’s airport will receive more than $1.7 million from the federal government’s Airport Critical Infrastructure Program to expand one of the airport’s aprons to create more space for larger aircraft. As well, the funding will also be used to improve scheduling and connection times, and corridors for physical distancing within the airport.

“The Saskatoon Airport Authority is a partner in developing Saskatoon and Saskatchewan by delivering the most valued airport experience in Canada through its focus on safety, security, and customer experience. These funds will help ensure that we continue to support our community in providing safe and efficient long-term infrastructure for future growth and development,” said Stephen Maybury, president and CEO at Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport.

Odd Burger coming to Regina

Odd Burger Corp., the Ontario-based vegan fast food chain, announced Aug. 22 that one of its four new franchise locations will be in Regina. An agreement has been made between Odd Burger and franchisees Jatin Arvindbhai Patel, Anilkumar Jivanlal Patel, and Kuldipsinh Vaghel. This will be the third Odd Burger location on the prairies, with the other two in Calgary and Edmonton.

“We are seeing a rapid acceleration of our franchising operations all across Canada,” says James McInnes, co-founder and CEO of Odd Burger. “The strategic partnerships with our area representatives are proving to be extremely effective as they have brought in incredibly passionate franchisees that believe in our mission and will help make Odd Burger the world leader in vegan fast food.”

Royal Helium moves into lithium

Aug. 22 saw news that Royal Helium has “sampled up to 84.9Mg/L lithium in brine underlying the Climax helium project.” The company intends to acquire lithium mineral rights, to develop alongside its helium operations.

“In the Climax-1 well, drilled in January 2021, one of the zones that we tested showed significant inflows of brine water and gas. Samples of both were taken and sent to lab for assay, returning elevated levels of helium and significant concentrations of lithium in brine. With recorded lithium grades of 84.9 mg/litre, combined with flow rates in the range of 1.85 MMCF per day equivalent, Climax is set to not only become a cash generative helium play, but also now presents potential additional value to stakeholders with a lithium exploration and development project,” said Andrew Davidson, president and CEO at Royal.

Uranium Energy Corp. completes acquisition of UEX Corporation

Texas-based Uranium Energy Corp. announced on Aug. 22 that it has completed its acquisition of UEX Corporation. The arrangement was approved at a special meeting of UEX securityholders on Aug. 15, 2022 and was  approved by the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Aug. 18, 2022.

“We are pleased to have completed our acquisition of UEX. This marks UEC’s second successful highly accretive M&A transaction in the last year, creating the largest diversified North American focused uranium company. We welcome UEX shareholders to UEC and appreciate the vote of confidence in supporting our transaction,” said Amir Adnani, president and CEO at Uranium Energy Corp. “The competing interest for UEX from other industry participants further validates the significant upside and strategic rationale we identified in UEX’s portfolio of high-grade projects in the world-class Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan. We look forward to working with our new stakeholders and the joint venture partners, including Cameco, Orano and Denison.”

Uranium Energy had a competitor for UEX – Denison Mines Corp. – who announced on Aug. 8 that its offer to acquire UEX had expired.

Coming soon: Ceres Global Ag Q4 2022 results on September 9, 2022.

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