Local green firm gets federal cash boost

Composites Innovation Centre recognized as leader in biomass standards and testing


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The day may come when regulations will require the use of biomass materials instead of carbon-based ones in many phases of the industrial process.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/11/2016 (2221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The day may come when regulations will require the use of biomass materials instead of carbon-based ones in many phases of the industrial process.

When that day comes, the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) will be at the forefront of the standardization of those products.

On Monday, the federal government continued its support of the work the Winnipeg-based CIC is doing to get those kinds of products into the commercial marketplace with $2.9 million in new funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jim Carr shakes hands with Sean McKay, President and CEO of the Composites Innovation Centre, after announcing two innovative projects that will provide assurances for quality Canadian biomass and innovative applications for biocomposites.

The money will go toward work the CIC is doing in the development of quality standards and measurement techniques for biomass and research into overcoming technology barriers to the adoption of natural fibres in the composites industry.

The hope is that instead of carbon-based products such as fibreglass, bus and tractor and even automobile manufacturers will eventually be able to reliably source parts made from biomass materials — such as flax or hemp straw, for instance — economically and efficiently and to the satisfaction of safety standards. And, most importantly, they will have come from sustainable material.

Jim Carr, on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said there is a growing urgency for the reduction of greenhouse gases around the world and there is increasing demand to create value from products that otherwise have no value, such as agricultural waste.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of international investment waiting to land into those countries and those companies who are positioned to help us in the transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy,” Carr said.

“This is both an example and a message that Canada understands very well… that we can become leaders and this will happen with both the public and private sectors working hand in hand as you see today.”

About $1 million will go to help identify and develop quality standards and measurement techniques to facilitate the commercialization of Canadian biomass in four bioproducts sectors: biomaterials, biochemical, biofuels and bioenergy.

That work is being done by a cross-Canada entity called Biomass Quality Network Canada which CIC manages. It was created from an AAFC roundtable on industrial biomass.

Sean McKay, the chief executive officer of CIC, said the entity was formed because there was a realization test standards and methods to determine the quality of straw in the field and subsequent processing currently do not exist.

Standards like that can take years to create, but he said the intention is for Biomass Quality Network Canada to quickly come out with a platform that can be further developed over time.

“Our focus is to develop a workable standard that could be introduced quite quickly and rapidly,” he said. “We’re not going to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. We are going to put something in place so that it can assist commercialization.”

The other $2 million will go toward the CIC’s ongoing FibreCITY initiative to develop methods to process and test fibres from hemp and flax crops and understand how their properties are affected by planting, growing and harvesting practices, plant varieties and the weather.

Lin-P’ing Choo-Smith, head of FibreCITY, said, “Industry needs to know if the material is strong enough and if it meets the product’s requirement. Grading systems exist for grain when it comes to oil and protein content, for instance. No such standards yet exist for biofibres. We want to develop standards that everyone can understand.”


Martin Cash

Martin Cash

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.


Updated on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 8:34 AM CST: Adds photo

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