Can We Grow Rice in Canada?

Can We Grow Rice in Canada?

FangZheng’s experimental paddy crop in Ontario says yes!

Canada’s reliable staples may be potatoes and wheat flour, but a recent report on CBC showcased how rice has been making a slow and steady progress these past few years. This rise has been partially attributed to the changing cultural makeup of Canada and a growing population of Asian immigrants. It’s also a result of the changing Canadian diet, which is slowly embracing plant-based protein rather than red meat, and whole grains rather than potatoes.

Why Rice?

From corn to oats, there are other western options to choose from besides rice. However, rice has the most benefits and is the easiest to integrate into one’s diet. Whole grain rice, for instance, tends to make you feel fuller, thus preventing overeating. CTV News also reports that rice has less fat and more resistant starch, which has been proven to have several health benefits like lowering sugar levels and suppressing insulin.

Rice is also a versatile ingredient, making it easy to combine with any meal. Whether it’s with chicken, seafood or vegetables, there’s probably a rice recipe for it. Plus, it’s straight forward to prepare. Investing in a quality rice cooker, even if you go for the options without any bells and whistles, means that you can get this dish’s benefits in as fast as 40 minutes. Indeed, it’s no wonder that rice has become a staple food in many households.

Planting Rice in Canada

It’s difficult to grow rice in our country because of the cold climate and lack of proper soil to cultivate it. Even Dainty, Canada’s only rice line, outsources its grains from the United States. Rice can only grow in paddies, both of which cannot naturally be found in Canada.

Fortunately, there has been plenty of research that has brought Canada closer to growing its own rice. Over the past few decades, Ontario-based studies have been conducted in Dunnville (1967) and at Ridgetown College (1974) and the Harrow Research Station (1998), but it wasn’t until recently that researchers were able to put all their findings into action.

FangZheng Agricultural Enterprise has been cultivating an artificial rice paddy in Ridgetown, Ontario, since 2018. The single-hectare experimental paddy located in Chatham-Kent was made with greenhouse-grown transplants and equipment supplied in part by Tri-Hark Farms to harvest the rice crop. Farm manager Wendy Zhang’s goal is to grow at least 70 hectares of rice in the 2020 season. Its production methods, such as fungicide and fertilizer application rates, have even been modified to suit Ontario’s cool weather. It’s the harvest that’s going to be tricky, however, since rice is reaped like wheat. That means moisture levels need to be low enough for the combines to work the fields and for the rice to dry.

Miraculously, FangZheng was able to harvest its first crop in 2019. Research is still being done to see if it’s edible and if the production methods can be replicated elsewhere, but it’s definitely a huge step forward for Canada’s rice industry.

Jennifer Birch
Jennifer Birch

Jennifer Birch is a freelance writer with a penchant for such topics as lifestyle, food and sustainability. In fact, she’s a big advocate for sustainable travelling and encourages everyone to see what the world has to offer while making sure to make a good impact.

Posted on Monday, September 27th, 2021
Filed under Farm to Table | Food
Tagged: Rice

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