Bio-material bullishness grows

Manitoba leaders head to global summit

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This week, a delegation from Australia met with officials from the Composites Innovation Centre to discuss various development strategies related to bio-fibre and bio-mass applications.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/07/2015 (2690 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This week, a delegation from Australia met with officials from the Composites Innovation Centre to discuss various development strategies related to bio-fibre and bio-mass applications.

Next week, more than a dozen Manitoba industry leaders will be at the Bio World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Montreal and two of them will lead key workshops at the conference that is expecting about 1,500 delegates.

Interest in the use of bio-mass and bio-fibre — traditionally the waste product from agricultural production — for industrial purposes and fuel is growing, and Manitoba and Western Canada are on the leading edge of that trend.

Simon Potter holds some flax fibre beside a tractor hood made with bio-fibre including hemp. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)

“Bio-materials have an untapped potential,” said John Pacak, the chairman of the Life Science Association of Manitoba.

(The association just received $58,000 from Western Economic Diversification to underwrite some of the costs of attending the conference in Montreal.)

The underlying potential for the development of such an industry — which is still in its early days — is the environmentally friendly and economically sound principals it’s based on.

“Imagine being the reason why more people are living better lives or being a significant contributor to a more sustainable Earth,” Pacak said.

Sean McKay, the chief executive officer of the CIC will present one workshop at the Montreal conference called Bioproduct Supply Chains In Action that gives three examples of how the early stages of a supply chain are already working.

“Materials are starting to move from the farm gate through processing and into actual products that are actually taken up by consumers,” he said.

One example is the use of hemp fibres harvested and processed by Prairie Industrial Hemp Processing Ltd. in Gilbert Plains, that are made into ceiling panels and cinder blocks by Tekle Technical Services of Drayton Valley, Alta., that are to be installed in the new Hemp Oil Canada facility in Ste. Agathe.

The CIC was integral in making those linkages happen.

“We’re using this example to demonstrate that these materials are real,” McKay said. “We’re looking for investments to building a manufacturing plant for these material in Manitoba.”

‘Imagine being the reason why more people are living better lives or being a significant contributor to a more sustainable Earth’

-John Pacak, the chairman of the Life Science Association of Manitoba

McKay’s colleague at the CIC, Simon Potter, is leading another workshop at the Bio World Congress, called Practical Magic: Genomics, Phenomics and the Next Generation of Advanced Materials.

Potter is heading up the development of the CIC’s FibreCity project, a 9,000-square-foot production plant that can take commercially grown bales of biomass, such as flax and hemp straw, and separate it into fibres. Those fibres can be tested and the data entered into a grading system and database that can be used to provide predictive models for various properties of the fibre. It will allow producers to go into a field and be able to tell what that bio-fibre can be useful for.

It’s anticipated that by 2020 the use of advanced biomaterials — agricultural fibres — will be widely used in the automotive, construction, aerospace and consumer products industries.

FibreCity’s science will eventually be used to help determine the best crop to produce the fibre with the most appropriate qualities for the specific industrial part to be manufactured.

Pacak said, “The technology already exists so that today we can literally plant a seed and tomorrow grow the crop to provide the raw material that can be utilized in the manufacture of the tractor that’s used to plow and harvest that crop.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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Updated on Friday, July 17, 2015 8:47 AM CDT: Adds colour photo

Updated on Friday, July 17, 2015 12:21 PM CDT: Fixes name spelling error

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