Protein supercluster backs Calgary oilseed processor

Industry will match PIC's $4 million

A Calgary company that has developed a unique way to process oil from canola, hemp, sunflower, and safflower seeds is the first recipient of funding from a protein ‘supercluster.’

Protein Industries Canada, one of five federally backed research and innovation superclusters, is putting in $4 million to commercialize plant protein processing technology developed by Botaneco Inc.

The company will work with the Canadian arm of crop chemical and seed firm Corteva and Alberta organic hemp producer Rowland Farms on the project, which will also leverage another $4 million from industry.

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“The Protein Industries Canada co-investment will allow us to expand our internal research capacity and contribute to the building of a Prairie proteins ecosystem with our consortia partners and key public research institutions,” Botaneco CEO James Szarko said in a release. “This investment will greatly accelerate our development timelines; opening new, high-value markets for Canadian oilseed crops.”

The five-year-old oilseed processor developed a process that preserves small “vessels” in oilseeds (called oleosomes) that have functional properties. Its process also doesn’t denature the proteins.

This makes the processed oil more valuable, Szarko said in an interview earlier this year.

“We’re focused on the whole seed — getting value out of every piece of the seed at a high-value basis. So all of a sudden, we turn what would be 80 or 90 cents a kilo to $5 to $25 a kilo,” he said. “We end up with a value proposition that’s at least five times the potential revenue from one little oilseed.”

The company initially focused on the aquaculture sector but there are a range of uses for its ingredients, said Szarko, whose company employs about 35 people at its Calgary manufacturing facility and a sales office in New Jersey.

It processes about 2,000 tonnes of seed annually, but is planning to build a facility able to process 50,000 tonnes and that could be scaled up to 300,000 tonnes, Szarko said in January.

Protein Industries Canada is a “pan-Prairie” industry-led alliance of more than 120 private sector companies, schools and other stakeholders. It was set up to develop “the potential of plant-based proteins from crops such as canola, pulses, grains, hemp and flax.” It is one of five superclusters chosen last year to split a five-year, $950-million funding commitment from Ottawa’s Innovation Superclusters Program.

Protein Industries Canada is receiving almost $153 million and its first investment is “a significant milestone,” said CEO Bill Greuel.

“We are thrilled to have worked with the consortium and co-invest into a project that will drive innovative processing and bring new opportunities for feed and food manufacturers,” he said in a release.

Botaneco products so far have been mostly safflower based and mainly for the personal care sector, including Hydresia oleosomes for skin care; CapSol, for sun protection; and Karmyn proteins for use in hair- and skin-care products and cleansers.

The company is described as “best-in-class” by Tyler Groeneveld, North American commercial grains and oils leader at Corteva.

“We are excited about new, high-value markets and unlocking untapped value in feed, food and consumer care, providing a model in Canadian agriculture for value-chain partnerships,” Groeneveld said.

(David Dzisiak, who was commercial grains and oils leader at Dow AgroSciences — Corteva’s predecessor company — until March is now the chief operating officer for Botaneco.)

Protein Industries Canada’s first call for proposals closed at the end of June, with a second call in September. — With files from Glacier FarmMedia

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