Category Archives: bioeconomy

Redefining “super food”: this corn-based water additive fights fires

By Lisa McLean

Firefighters commonly use petroleum-based foams and gels to get fires under control, but the lasting effects of those products – on soil, waterways and the firefighters themselves – has recently been called into question.

Now, a new competitor is on the market, and it’s proving as effective as traditional foams – made entirely from edible products, including Ontario corn.

Napanee-based company FireRein is the brainchild of veteran firefighter Quincy Emmons and Napanee entrepreneur Steven Montgomery. In spring 2018 the company announced a deal with U.S.-based technology holding company Ethonus to develop applications for Eco-Gel™ within the U.S. military.

“Eco-Gel is a proprietary water additive that is instantly transformed into a firefighting hydrogel when introduced into a water stream at the required concentrations,” says Rui Resendes, president and CEO of FireRein. “In fighting class A and B fires, Eco-Gel is proven to extinguish fires in half the time of traditional foams and gels.” Continue reading

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

A sweet market for crop residues

Biorefining company expands partnership with local crop farmers with new glucose-processing facility

By Matt McIntosh

Sarnia – Making more money on the same amount of land – it’s a mantra for today’s farmers, and one that’s increasingly relevant as land prices and production costs continue to rise.

A Sarnia refining company is helping local farmers expand their return per acre by providing a market for an otherwise low-value material: the corn stalks and wheat stubble left over after harvest.

With planning for a new facility well underway, Comet Biorefining is expanding its partnership with Ontario farmers who are members of the Cellulosic Sugar Producers’ Cooperative – a partnership that started in 2014 – to turn an additional 60,000 tonnes of crop residue into 30,000 tonnes of cellulosic dextrose, or industrial processing sugar, each year. Continue reading

GreenTech keeps coffee hot, but not too hot

From left – Michael Floros, Suresh Narine and Michael Tessier of Trent University

By Lisa McLean

Peterborough – When the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning in 2016 about the connection between drinking very hot beverages (above 65 C) and esophageal cancer, researchers at Trent University had an unlikely solution: soybeans.

Within months, they developed a travel mug that uses a unique soy-based material inside its walls to cool beverages to safe temperatures within minutes, and maintain the temperature in a perfect range for several hours.

Dr. Suresh Narine, professor in Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry who also heads up the Trent Centre for Biomaterials Research (TCBR), has been experimenting with energy storage properties in lipids. He says the research team developed the material in response to a challenge: how to use biomaterials to store energy, and control how that stored energy gets released.

“We figured out how to design materials that melts or crystallizes at specific temperatures,” says Narine. “It stores the heat when it melts, and when the material crystallizes, it gives that heat back.” 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