Category Archives: University of Guelph

Cosmetic and health products generate new markets for Ontario sweet corn

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – A local biotechnology company is expanding its operations to meet growing global demand for its sweet corn-derived glycogen product.

Mirexus Inc., a University of Guelph spin-off company, is building a $6.8 million research and production facility that will have the capacity to produce 16 tons of its trademarked flagship product PhytoSpherix annually.

PhytoSpherix is nano-particulate form of glycogen, currently offered as a key ingredient in personal care and cosmetic products with a particular focus on anti-aging. The product is certified natural, non-toxic, food grade, and biodegradable, making it safe for human use in food and cosmetics. In the long run it has much potential for medical applications as well, such as a nano-carrier or transport system in the body to carry drugs to targeted areas like cancer cells.

To feed the expanded production, Mirexus will need 4,500 acres of sweet corn production per year, creating new market opportunities for farmers. All the sweet corn used to make PhytoSpherix is currently sourced from Ontario, which the company plans to continue doing, says President and CEO Dr. Phil Whiting.

“These are new markets for farmers that aren’t driven by the commodity cycle, and we are using sweet corn varieties available on the market today,” he says. “Forty per cent of the dry corn kernel is the material we use, and that’s what lets us harvest this economically, because there is a lot of it.” Continue reading

Water on app New app to reduce water use for Canada’s ornamental plant sector

Jared Stoochnoff

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – It takes a lot of work – and a lot of water — to grow healthy trees and shrubs for Canada’s ornamental plant sector. The industry, which boasts approximately 3,500 nurseries across Canada, uses an estimated 190 million cubic metres of water every year.

But new research suggests this is two to three times more water than healthy trees need. And soon a new tool will be available to help nursery managers determine when to turn on –and turn off – the hose.

Jared Stoochnoff, a University of Guelph graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, is pioneering a new irrigation management strategy designed to reduce water consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of ornamental nursery operations.

“Because many nursery irrigation managers lack reliable ways to quantitatively predict a plant’s actual water requirements, they tend to err on the side of caution and overwater,” Stoochnoff says. “This results in unnecessarily high water and fertilizer run-off that negatively impacts local watersheds.” Continue reading

From waste to wealth: transforming greenhouse waste into energy

Animesh Dutta

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – When Animesh Dutta ponders the problems of the world, he lands on energy security, food security and climate change. The University of Guelph researcher’s latest project holds promise for addressing all three.

As professor and director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab in the School of Engineering, Dutta focuses on taking waste from farms or food processors and finding the best solution to convert it into renewable energy that will maximize the economics.

When he started working on bioenergy, Dutta saw the benefits of creating a renewable source of energy that didn’t interfere with food production.

“The economics don’t seem to be there for using feedstock for bioenergy,” he says. “You have to purchase the raw product and farmers want a price for their biomass crop that is higher than the value of the bioenergy it makes.” Continue reading

A new solution to cleaning wastewater on shrimp farms

By Jeanine Moyer

Guelph – Ontario shrimp farmers could soon be going green – with algae. New research is using algae to naturally clean recirculating saltwater on shrimp farms. Still in the early development stages, the new, highly efficient process of removing nutrients and carbon dioxide from recirculating saltwater is being tested at the University of Guelph.

“It’s not a new idea,” admits Andreas Heyland, lead project researcher and integrative biology professor at the University of Guelph. “But we’ve been able to select highly efficient algae strains, which can be grown on the recirculating water.”

In-land shrimp farming has grown in Ontario in recent years with the demand for local shrimp in closer proximity to the marketplace. As a result, farmers are looking for new ways to manage nutrient build-up in the production system; conventional methods don’t produce much revenue and saltwater can’t be easily disposed in the environment. Continue reading

Finding the right light to grow better plants – on Earth and in space

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – It’s an unremarkable building from the outside, tucked away on a side street on the University of Guelph campus. What’s inside, though, is most remarkable – and may well be lighting the way for future human life in space, as well as better life here on earth.

Not only are researchers in the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility working on how to best grow food away from Earth, they’re also experimenting with using light to improve the production of medical marijuana and cancer-fighting tobacco plants, helping nurseries reduce water and fertilizer use on their trees and shrubs, and finding low cost solutions to growing more compact bedding plants.

PhD candidate Dave Hawley is using basil and strawberry plants in experiments designed to find the best LED light combination for use in small, low atmosphere growth chambers that will not only simulate but actually improve upon real sunlight – and resulting in better flavour and ultimately helping feed people on long space journeys. Continue reading