In 2007, Jamie Draves lost one-third of his pancreas due to pancreatitis. The Georgetown, Ontario resident attributes a big part of his recovery to high-quality, nutritious super foods, including quinoa. Now, quinoa is his career. Inspired to help others enjoy the high-protein seed, he launched Katan Kitchens in 2011 and set about producing Ontario’s first locally grown quinoa varieties.
At a research farm in Brookville, Ontario, Draves and his team experimented with hundreds of quinoa varieties, using natural breeding techniques to create a supercharged version of the South American seed that could thrive in local growing conditions.
Quinoa has a well-deserved reputation for packing plenty of nutritional punch – but Draves wanted to do better. The result, sold under the “Quinta Quinoa” banner, delivers 60 per cent of your daily iron requirement in a single serving. Add to that, exceptionally higher levels of protein, fibre, zinc, calcium and magnesium than traditional varieties. “It’s almost getting to the point where you don’t compare it to quinoa because it’s that much better,” he says.
That was only half of the challenge, however. To achieve his goal of providing the world’s highest-quality quinoa, Draves realized he had to be involved in the full value chain: breeding, growing, processing and then taking the final product to market.
That’s when he turned to Bioenterprise Corporation. The agri-business accelerator helped Katan Kitchens develop pitch decks and secure funding. They scrutinized the company’s business plans and made important connections with industry partners. “They’re a great resource for us, and they’ve been there through each stage of the development of our company,” says Draves.
Meanwhile, a successful appearance on Dragons’ Den in 2015 saw investor and celebrity chef Vikram Vij partner with the company. When Katan’s first commercial harvest of Quinta Quinoa hit the market in early 2016, it quickly sold out.
Having secured more than $1 million in funding to date, Katan is continuing to extend their network of farmers and expand their processing facilities, which currently employ eight people. Meanwhile, thanks to a robust research program, the team expects to roll out a new variety of quinoa every two years, while also developing other super foods.
In five years, Draves predicts they’ll hit global sales of more than $20 million. However, his biggest reward comes from sharing the benefits of the super foods that saved him. “I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve been able to allow other people that opportunity to be ‘healthier today than yesterday,’” he says.