Meet Kris Heshka, Red Leaf’s newest team member in Regina

Kris' family

Kris, a life-long Saskatchewan resident, was raised on a small family farm and has been around agriculture his whole life. His experience as an agriculture innovation leader and multidisciplinary technologist is helping him spearhead exciting next steps at Red Leaf Alternative Fibre & Renewable Energy.

We had the chance to sit down with Kris to chat about his new role and what he has planned for the coming months.

Kris' family

Please describe your role at Red Leaf:

I’m the Director of Biofibre, Strategy and Innovation. Biofibre Strategy is how we ensure our long-term agriculture fibre security for the requirements for the Red Leaf Regina Pulp Plant.

What are you presently working on?

Red Leaf has a three-part approach that reflects our priorities: First, we are fully defining our aligned success metrics in conjunction with our producer’s long- term goals. We know we have a strong value proposition for our producers, but we want to ensure the alignment contributes to our mutual long-term success.

Secondly, we are supporting our producers’ needs by creating a Producers’ Portal. The online platform enables our producers to have the flexibility to do business with us at their convenience and to have transparent communication throughout our partnerships.

Lastly, through 2024 we are developing an efficient mechanical platform for handling agriculture biomass logistics and storage. This is where the rubber meets the road. We are designing our equipment and infrastructure to perform when it matters at harvest time. We are highly focused on designing a highly optimized workflow from field to production, while maintaining flexibility for our unique producer needs.

What does the producer relationship mean to you?

We think of our producers in the light that either their grandparents owned the land, or their grandchildren will own the land. We want to create a corporate culture that highlights that we’re from here too – it’s all about success and longevity.

A big part of my objectives is to share the Red Leaf message, which is something new to agriculture, but aligns with the same values as our producers. We’re keeping this in mind as we find the best ways to make the economics work with the new technology that we’re preparing to bring to market.

Saskatchewan has many progressive business-minded producers who understand the need to diversify their operations — a full crop utilization, while protecting the agronomic principles is top of mind.

Can you talk about key developments by Red Leaf in 2023?

We built a material demonstration plant, which is a critical step in our strategy to develop the domestic (North American) market. We supply it with various types of straw from Saskatchewan and Alberta so that we can produce a meaningful amount of pulp for the downstream product development (i.e., paper plates).

Producing pulp allowed us to validate our processes and secure investments. We recently received an investment from Dart Container — we are very excited about partnering with them for the molded segment!

What does Red Leaf’s focus on the circular economy mean to you?

Our whole project fits the definition of a circular economy. It’s rare that projects check all the boxes. Our opportunity is unique because the raw materials are simply not fully utilized. Currently, farmers have to use fuel in one capacity or another to manage their straw.

We are asking producers to use less fuel and be paid for their extra straw, which we turn into a value- added commodity product; just like the wheat grain going into a loaf of bread or pasta. One of the ways we measure our efficiency is our decreased Diesel Fuel consumption in our operation and the resulting lower GHG emissions.

What’s your message to producers?

Kris on the tractor

We’re excited to continue connecting with producers to update them on our progress and begin securing our wheat straw requirements for 2024.

In the meantime, call or email me (306.535.6611 or kheshka@redleafpulp.com) and I can add you to our list of producers. I’m looking forward to connecting with as many producers as possible to help shape our aligned vision!

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