Volume 1, Issue 2 November 2004
Published by Ag-West Bio Inc.
CLS casts a light on bio-product research
The switch was pulled in a ceremony marking the official opening of the Canadian Light Source
synchrotron, Friday October 22, 2004.
“As one of the top „third-generation' synchrotrons in existence and a model for newer facilities,
Canada joins 15 other countries who are using synchrotron science to investigate matter in a
whole new light," said federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.
Minister Goodale was joined by a multitude of other dignitaries including Lorne Calvert, Premier
of Saskatchewan, Dr. Eliot Phillipson, President, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Dr. Arthur
Carty, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, and the mayor of Saskatoon, Don Atchison, each
one impressed with the possibilities available to Canadian researchers with the opening of the
Canadian Light Source.
“In the bio-sector, the possibilities are endless,” said Jeffery Cutler, Acting Director of Research
(Applied) at the CLS. “It is a whole new field; we have not begun to even think of the
Cutler is currently working with a group of scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
and the University of Saskatchewan, College of Engineering to characterize the effects of bio-
diesel additives to engine performance. Why does adding a certain percentage of bio-diesel to an
engine improve performance? What are the changes actually occurring? What are the effects of
temperature, engine strain, and moisture and oxygen contamination? are some of the questions
this group hopes to determine.
“Taking samples from the Saskatoon BioBus, we will examine the actual chemical changes due
to the bio-diesel using infra red spectroscopy and other synchrotron beamlines.” said Cutler.
Synchrotron light has become increasingly important for the study of biological macromolecules
as it can look at the chemical form regardless of the state of the sample: solid, liquid or gas. It
also makes it possible to study effects such as conformational transitions of bio-molecules upon
binding or when the environment or physiochemical conditions are altered (e.g. pH or
These properties are useful for Environment Canada Research Scientist, John R. Lawrence. He,
along with a team of scientists from McMaster University and the National Water Research
Institute in Burlington, Ontario, are using soft X-ray microscopy in combination with laser and
electron microscopy to engineer biofilms for use in environmental remediation.
Biofilms are bacteria interwoven in a polysaccharide matrix and attached to solid or liquid
surfaces. The bacteria in these biofilms also bind metals such as nickel, manganese, or cadmium,
allowing for their use to recover metals from water effluents and reservoirs.
“The CLS offers us the ability to detect metals with increased sensitivity, especially in relation to
state and spatial resolution,” said Lawrence. “By enhancing our understanding of how metals
interact with micro-organisms, and in particular to their extracellular products such as
polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids which can also be mapped using soft x-rays, we can
produce biofilms with an enhanced capacity to metals.”
Dr. Michael Bancroft, Executive-Director of the Ontario Synchrotron Consortium and founding
Executive Director for the CLS, is also using synchrotron light to study lubricants in an effort to
prolong the life of engines.
Antiwear compounds (ZDDP - zinc, sulphur and phosphorous) are added to engine oils to reduce
the deterioration of metal parts as they rub against one another. These elements form an anti-
wear film on the surface of the metal engine. Engines built from various metals may interact
differently with ZDDP and therefore form films with varying degrees of resilience to engine
Bancroft and his team are using synchrotron radiation to analyze the mechanical properties of
films in order to develop films with a varying range of properties.
These bio-based synchrotron applications are only a small sample of the opportunities available.
In the words of Premier Lorne Calvert, "We aren't just opening a world-class synchrotron. We
are launching opportunities in Saskatchewan that will lead to profound advances in science and
technology for the benefit of all people."
For more information on synchrotron applications for bio-based research, contact: Jeffery Cutler,
CLS Acting Director of Research (Applied) at: Jeffery.firstname.lastname@example.org
Flax pilot plant – expanding opportunities for Saskatchewan
Flax, a crop with a long history in industrial and textile uses, could become the next Cinderella
crop for Canada.
Flax has always been an extremely versatile plant used for both its unique oil and fiber qualities,
but research is opening many new doors in areas of health and wellness, new bio-based industrial
uses, and animal feed products all the way to new and improved methods for textile production.
“The main limitation for flax producers is the straw,” said Alvin Ulrich, president of Biolin
Research. “Farmers like flax as it can withstand Saskatchewan weather extremes and has low
incidence of pests and diseases, but they don‟t know what to do with the straw.” Flax straw can
take a long time to degrade, especially if the crop is not managed correctly. “At this point, most
farmers burn the straw.”
There is a solution on the horizon. Biolin, with funding from the Saskatchewan Flax
Development Commission and the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development in
Saskatchewan (CARDS) program, is building a pilot plant to research the best ways of managing
flax straw for a desired end purpose.
“This plant will be the second flax pilot plant in North America, and the first in Canada” said
Ulrich. “The machinery in this plant will allow us to take the raw straw and run it through the
machines at various speeds, angles, and combinations of machines to optimize the end products.”
Uses for flax straw vary depending on the quality of the straw, and in regard to fiber production,
largely depends upon the degree of retting. Retting is a biological process making it easier to
separate the fiber from the non fiber shive component of the straw. On the lower end of the
value-added scale, flax may be used for specialty papers or geotextiles (ground-cover materials).
As the straw is further cleaned and processed, more value added opportunities arise including
packing materials, insulation or in plastic composites. The most highly processed flax fiber is
used in absorbency products and textiles.
“The research being undertaken at the pilot plant in Saskatoon will allow for the production of
more valued-added flax products,” said Ulrich. “Once the best procedure for processing the
straw for a particular purpose has been determined, we hope full-scale production facilities will
spin-off and start commercial production.”
The pilot plant will be set-up in three phases. Phase one, which includes the initial set-up of the
buildings and equipment, is almost complete. The first three machines were turned on just last
week and already employees are busy testing samples.
Phase two will involve purchasing and setting up more sophisticated machines for secondary
processing of the flax fibres such as carding (straightening and aligning the fibres), needle
punching, and cottonizing (processing the fibers to be similar to cotton for the production of
linen fabrics on existing cotton spinning machines).
Phase three involves setting up equipment for chemically treating the fibres to achieve increased
absorbency or waterproofing, for example.
“Our timing for each phase depends on the funding, but we should be completely finished phase
one and already into phase two in six to eight months.”
The pilot plant, through Biolin Research, will also provide the only commercial service
worldwide to determine the amount of fibre contained in straw samples.
Previous research conducted at Biolin, in conjunction with Dr. Woody Barton and Dr. Danny
Akin from the Russell Research Center, USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Athens,
Georgia, found a way to accurately estimate the fibre content in flax stems using near-infrared
Biolin was approached to work with Drs. Barton and Akin as Biolin had devised a reliable
method for measuring flax fibre content manually and had access to the largest acquisition of
flax varieties at the Plant Gene Resources of Canada housed here in Saskatoon.
“We found there was a high correlation between our manual method and the values determined
through NIR.” said Ulrich. “We are now able to offer a service analyzing samples in 5 to 7
minutes whereas it used to take one week. This kind of service is not only valuable to farmers,
but is useful in breeding and research programs.”
Timing of this pilot plant could not be better as a new initiative, Flax Canada 2015, is being
formed. Spearheaded by Ag-West Bio Inc., this project is a national coalition of industry,
government and researchers formed to investigate new value-added opportunities for flax. Kelley
Fitzpatrick has been hired as Project Coordinator.
“Flax Canada 2015 represents an exciting opportunity for those of us who believe in the
significant potential for flax to become Canada‟s bio-economy crop of the 21st century,” said
Fitzpatrick. “There is tremendous potential for new uses for flax fiber, as well as in areas such as
human health, animal health and performance, industrial applications and breeding. Flax Canada
will aim to enhance the utilization of flax in all these key sectors.”
Alvin Ulrich and his team at Biolin are excited for the prospects for flax in the future. “The pilot
plant gives producers a source of revenue with the straw that used to be a problem.” And their
new slogan says it all: Stop the burning. Start the earning!
For more information contact:
Alvin Ulrich, President, Biolin Research Inc. email@example.com
Analysis of fiber content in flax stems by near-infrared spectroscopy.
J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Dec 18; 50(26):7576-80
Barton FE 2nd, Akin DE, Morrison WH, Ulrich A, Archibald DD
Hydrogen-fossil fuel truck – A world first
Rising costs of fossil fuels have provided the impetus for the development of alternate sources of
energy and the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has stepped up to the table with the
development of Canada‟s first hydrogen-diesel and hydrogen–gasoline fueled vehicles.
“The development of hydrogen as an alternative fuel is a key part of a green and prosperous
economy,” said Premier Lorne Calvert at the unveiling this April. “With this move, the
Saskatchewan Research Council is helping to make Saskatchewan the national model in
researching and demonstrating hydrogen as a new source of energy.”
In association with Ecce Energy Corporation and financial assistance from the Government of
Canada‟s Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance funding program, SRC demonstrated the
technical feasibility of dual-fuelled vehicles operating on blends of hydrogen and liquid fuel up
to 60%. The project was extended to include the development of two prototype vehicles using
SRC converted two General Motors (GM) heavy-duty pickup trucks with the ability to operate
on conventional fossil fuels alone, or on a combination of hydrogen and fossil fuel. To provide
the hydrogen source, the trucks were fitted with cylinders carrying hydrogen as compressed gas
at 5,000 psi.
Research to date shows the performance and drivability of the vehicles are excellent, and there is
no power loss when using hydrogen. “The driving range on dual fuel - 30% of the energy being
provided from hydrogen - is 290 km for the diesel truck and 220 km for the hydrogen/gasoline
truck,” said SRC, Principal Research Engineer, Sheldon Hill. “When out of hydrogen, both
vehicles will continue to run on their original fuel.”
The current weakness with this system is in the storage of the hydrogen, but cylinder
manufacturers are developing 10,000 psi cylinders which would essentialy double the driving
range on hydrogen. In addition, the trucks would easily accommodate tanks that are 40% larger,
should they be made available.
To circumvent on-board storage of hydrogen, fuel cell conversion systems are being
investigated. The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) for example, just announced its two-step steam
reforming-shift fuel processor can efficiently convert ethanol into hydrogen.
“Hydrogen must be produced from a feedstock and that could be biomass including crop and
forestry residues, agriforestry (hybrid poplars or willows), along with products like hog manure,”
said Hill. Similarly, hydrogen could be sourced from renewable sources such as grain ethanol or
bio-diesel in the future. “Should hydrogen become a prevalent fuel, Saskatchewan may have a
great deal to gain.”
SRC is working to move this technology forward and demonstrate feasibility. Applications are
being made to test this technology in a number of vehicles over the next three to four years.
“Our technology is a feasible first step towards the future,” commented Hill. “This unique
modification of existing vehicles to use hydrogen with conventional fuel provides the
opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest cost and greatest flexibility to the
For more information, visit the Saskatchewan Research Council website at: http://www.src.sk.ca.
Illinois: Gas Technology Institute Converts Ethanol into Hydrogen
……… bio-chemicals & co-products
Enzymes Add Value to the Feed Industry and the
By Eileen Dent
A little bit of enzyme goes a long way toward improving the quality of animal feed, increasing
the meat industry‟s productivity and reducing its environmental impact.
Enzymes, proteins that coordinate specific chemical reactions, break down indigestible
compounds in feed so livestock can extract more energy and nutrients from their food. Reduced
manure volume and nutrient content resulting from the use of feed enzymes also minimizes the
environmental impact of animal waste.
Given these benefits, it‟s not surprising the dollar value of the feed enzyme industry, about $150
million US in 2002, is outweighed by its benefits to the agricultural industry.
“Enzymes are cost effective,” said Vern Racz, Executive Director of the Prairie Feed Resource
Centre (PFRC). “If I can save five dollars a ton by using a certain byproduct and the enzyme
only costs me two, guess what I‟m using!”
Much of the original research into the use of enzymes in animal feed was conducted at the
University of Saskatchewan. Today, two Saskatchewan companies are profiting from that
In Bradwell, Saskatchewan, GNC Bioferm manufactures feed enzymes to break down
undigestible compounds in cereals. GNC‟s co-founders, Leigh Cambell from the University of
Saskatchewan and Jan Grootwassink from the National Research Council, started GNC Bioferm
in 1985 to commercialize their pioneering research in cereal digestion. Their enzyme
preparations are distributed worldwide.
MCN BioProducts Inc., based in Saskatoon, makes protein concentrates from canola meal.
MCN BioProducts uses the enzyme phytase to break down phytic acid in canola, to help create
their „phytic acid-free‟ protein concentrates.
MCN BioProducts has recently received funding from a private investment firm to
commercialize their product. The company plans to supply their concentrates first to the animal
feed industry and subsequently to the food and cosmetic industries.
“Phytic acid is poorly digestible by animals so your chickens and pigs will not digest
phosphorous that comes from plant ingredients,” said David Maenz, co-founder and chief
scientific officer of MCN BioProducts.
“The phytic acid itself is thought to impair digestibility of other nutrients. It basically ends up
binding to proteins and impairs the enzymes in the gut from doing their job,” said Maenz.
The environmental benefit of using feed enzymes motivates producers in Europe and Asia to
enzyme-treat their animal feed. Phosphorous from animal waste containing phytic acid can
pollute surrounding water sources. Bulky, undigested fiber results in a greater volume of manure
and a bigger waste disposal headache for meat producers.
“We don‟t know what it‟s like in Canada to have to meet their environmental standards and
codes,” said Racz, as Canada has greater space for animal production. Stiff regulations abroad
are a marketing advantage for Canadian feed enzyme producers. That advantage has helped
GNC Bioferm‟s products become the first in the world to gain European Union regulatory
approval for use in poultry.
“Our biggest market is in Spain. One of the reasons is they grow a lot of barley and raise a lot of
poultry. It‟s a concentrated industry,” said Leigh Campbell of GNC Bioferm.
“We‟re hoping the registration will increase our market share. We‟re operating at 100 percent
capacity and have been for several months,” said Campbell. “The plan is to start a new facility
in the spring.”
Just as the feed enzyme market for poultry and pigs is becoming more competitive, new markets
are emerging for feed enzymes. The aquaculture industry, in particular, has a pressing need to
treat their animal feed.
“The major aquaculture industry is salmon farming,” said MCN BioProducts‟ Maenz. “Salmon
are carnivorous; they require high protein diets and most of that comes from fish meal.”
Fish meal is the highest cost component of fish farming. Its price fluctuates widely depending
on weather and fishing conditions. MCN is betting the aquaculture industry will be interested in
their canola-derived protein concentrate as a more reliable substitute for fish meal.
“Canola has a natural advantage over every other plant source of protein,” said Maenz. “It‟s
actually the best plant source for amino acid balance in the world. It‟s the one that most closely
resembles the amino acid composition of meat.”
Meat producers are also motivated to discover whether feed enzymes can be used as probiotics.
Probiotic substances encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the animal‟s gut, decreasing the
need to supplement livestock with antibiotics.
Enzymes could promote the growth of healthy gut flora in two ways. First, by breaking down
fibrous material in the feed, enzymes decrease the viscosity or stickiness of the food as it passes
through the animal‟s digestive system. There is some evidence that speeding up the movement
of food through the gut discourages the growth of harmful or anti-nutritive bacteria.
Another way to promote a healthy gut flora in livestock is to supplement their feed with cultures
of beneficial bacteria. In this instance, it is not a specific enzyme but an entire bacterium that
confers the benefit. For example, adding certain strains of Lactobacillus bacteria to chicken feed
reduces their susceptibility to Salmonella and E. coli infection. The helpful Lactobacillus crowd
out the harmful bacteria in the animal‟s gut.
Although feed enzymes‟ effectiveness as a probiotic is still being researched, this application is a
good example of the ongoing process of innovation in the feed industry. Researchers and meat
producers are keenly interested in new ways of applying these inexpensive but effective bio-
based processes to add value, cut costs and reduce the environmental impact of their operations.
For further information, contact Eileen Dent at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prairie Feed Resource Centre: http://feedresources.usask.ca/main2.html
GNC Bioferm Inc. http://www.uvisions.com/gncbioferm/
MCN BioProducts Inc. http://www.mcnbioproducts.com/
Van Beilen, JB, Li, Z (2002) Enzyme technology: an overview. Current Opinion in
Kirk,O., Vedel Borchert, T., Crone Fuglsang, C. (2002) Industrial enzyme applications. Current
Opinion in Biotechnology 13:345-351
Garriga, M., Pasqual, M., Montfort, J.M., Hugas, M. (1998) Selection of Lactobacilli for chicken
probiotic adjuncts. Journal of Applied Microbiology 84:125-132
In the News….People
Dr. Martin Reaney, formerly a Research Scientist, Bio-Products and Processing at
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has accepted a new position as the Saskatchewan
Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization Chair of Lipid Utilization and Quality at the
University of Saskatchewan.
Dr. Derk te Bokkel has accepted a new position, Senior Scientist, Process Technology
Research, with the POS Pilot Plant.
Kelley Fitzpatrick, formerly of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and
Nutraceuticals, is now Project Coordinator for Flax Canada 2015, a new initiative formed
to investigate new value-added potential for flax.
John Cooper assumed the position of President and Chief Executive Officer for Bio-
Diesel Canada Inc. on September 22, 2004.
John Cross, CEO and Chairman of the Board for Philom Bios, was awarded Ernst &
Young‟s entrepreneur award for the Prairie region in the health and sciences category.
Dr. David Maenz, Chief Scientific Officer for MCN BioProducts, will be moving
permanently to the offices, lab and pilot facility of MCN BioProducts Inc. He will retain
Adjunct Professor status with the University of Saskatchewan.
Dr. David Wall, Acting Director of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - Saskatoon
Research Centre, has accepted the position of Acting Science Director of Sustainable
Production of Field Crops, one of ten national science director positions.
Dr. Owen Olfert, Section Head of the Ecological Pest Management Division has
replaced David Wall in the position of Acting Site Manager of the Agriculture and Agri-
Food Canada - Saskatoon Research Centre.
In the News….Companies
Craik Sustainable Living Project celebrated their official opening Friday, October 8,
2004. The event was broadcast on CBC‟s News at Noon. For more information visit:
Husky Energy held a sod turning ceremony for their planned ethanol facility in
Lloydminster on October 28, 2004. For more information visit:
The Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) Inc. recently
launch a new re-designed website offering information on the many advantages the
Saskatoon region has to offer. For more information visit: http://www.sreda.com
In the News….Finance
The Canadian Consulate in Chicago in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada announced a pilot program – Commercial Partnership Development Program – to
support partnership, collaboration and innovation in agricultural biotechnology and
bioprocessing. For more information contact Chris Bigall, Business Development Officer, Canadian
Consulate General: email@example.com
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell and Saskatchewan Agriculture
and Food Minister Mark Wartman announced a federal contribution of $78.5 million for
a package of programs and services under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF).
Environment Chapter programming will receive $40 Million designed to enhance
environmental stewardship in Saskatchewan's agriculture industry. For more information
In the Prime Minister‟s Response Speech to the Throne Speech, October 5, 2004, he
commited to “devote a significant portion of the net proceeds from our sale of Petro-
Canada, at least $1-billion, to support, develop and commercialize new environmental
technologies – technologies that will help not only Canada but other nations achieve a
healthier environment.” For more information visit: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/sft-
In the News….Updates
On October 22, US President George W. Bush signed a bill containing the first biodiesel
tax incentive in the United States. The federal excise tax amounts to 1 cent per percentage
point of biodiesel blended with petroleum diesel for first-use oils like soybean oil, and 0.5
cents per percentage for biodeisel made from other sources such as recycled cooking oil.
For more information visit:
Communities of Tomorrow recently announced its second call for proposals. They are
looking to collaborate with researchers, industry, associations, academia, or individuals
with innovative and beneficial ideas contributing to sustainable communities. For more
information visit: http://www.communitiesoftomorrow.ca/resources/Second%20Call.pdf
BIOCAP Canada: Building partnerships for climate change
Outside the sky was white with Saskatchewan‟s first snowstorm, but it did not stop David
Pollock from enlightening his audience on how BIOCAP Canada plans to Capture Canada‟s
Canada‟s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequester atmospheric carbon and
deal with the issues of climate change are being addressed by the BIOCAP Canada Foundation.
With a mandate to harness Canada's university research to explore biosphere solutions to climate
change & greenhouse gas management, they fund critical research and create networks which
will allow them to develop the insights and technologies to inform policy and investment
decisions in government and industry.
“I am convinced Canada has an enormous green advantage,” commented David Pollock, the
Executive Director for the BIOCAP Canada Foundation as he presented a seminar on Monday,
October 18 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “We must use our abundant natural resources to
manage climate change and in so doing capture economic and environmental benefits for all
“BIOCAP Canada has assembled funding to support all areas of quality research focused on
finding biosphere solutions to the challenges of climate change.” said Pollock. “We have a
national focus, as evident in our many funding partners. The Federal government is our major
partner, but the Provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia have also come on
board along with many industrial partners.”
Since 2001, BIOCAP has leveraged a $22M commitment to university research. This funding
has already been delegated to BIOCAP‟s priority areas for the development of networks and
funding for research. Existing networks include Sustainable Forest Management, Fluxnet
Canada, and Greenhouse management Canada. According to Pollock, BIOCAP is searching for
partners to develop new networks and fund projects in the following areas:
Aquatic Systems & Climate Change Network (~$261K)
Afforestation & Biomass Crops (~$460K)
Animal Production & Manure Management (~$50K)
Landscape Scale Cropping Systems ($1.25M)
Green Crop ($466K)
Green Synthesis Network ($1.36M)
Auto21 NCE (bio-fuel initiative)
Microbial Bioenergy Technology Network(~$100K)
In 2002-03, BIOCAP and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
partnered to co-fund projects focused on the mitigation of climate change. Currently, they are
partnering with the Sustainable Forest Management Network (SFMN) to host a competition with
approximately $450,000 for research projects over the next three years. Proposals focusing on
understanding and characterizing the effects of forest management practices are being
“The foundation is committed to solid science,” reported Pollock. “Our researchers work at
arm‟s length from funding partners thereby ensuring the research can withstand scrutiny and
allowing policy decisions to be based on solid science.”
BioCap is hosting their first conference „Capturing Canada‟s Green Advantage: Biosphere
solutions for climate change and the economy‟ on February 2 – 3, 2005 at Ottawa, Ontario. A
call for the submission of abstracts has been distributed and information can be accessed from
their website: http://www.biocap.ca
Succeeding in Innovation Research, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling, Des Moines, IA, USA
World Ethanol 2004, London, UK
Sustainable Technologies & Services Summit, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Developing Alternate Energy Sources on Aboriginal Traditional Lands, Toronto, ON, Canada
LEED Canada Training Level 1, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit, Toronto, ON, Canada
Crop Production Week, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Jan. 30 - Feb. 2
National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA
Ag-West Bio Inc. Board of Directors
Chair: Jerome Konecsni, Vice President of Corporate Development, Bioriginal Food &
Vice-Chair: Armand Lavoie, VP, Western Canada, Foragen Technology Ventures Inc.
Secretary-Treasurer: Bill Compton, Plant Manager, ERCO Worldwide
Dale Botting, President, Botting Leadership and Development Corporation
Maryellen Carlson, Assistant Deputy Minister, Saskatchewan Agriculture, Food and Rural
Ian McPhadden, Producer
Mark Pickard, General Manager, InfraReady Products
Pete Desai, President, Desai & Desai Inc.
Robert Morgan, President and CEO, POS Pilot Plant
Ian Newton, Managing Director, Ceres Consulting
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