University of Guelph research using renewable agricultural products in new ways to replace petroleum-based materials received $1.125 million from the federal government and private-sector partners today.

The announcement was made by federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz during an event in Leamington, Ont.

The investment from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through its Agri-Innovation Program will support new research at U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC).

Dr. Amar Mohanty
Photo: left to right: Dr. Amar Mohanty, University of Guelph; Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz; Mike Tiessen, President, Competitive Green Technologies; and Atul Bali, CEO, Competitive Green Technologies.

BDDC scientists aim to create renewable, eco-friendly alternatives to petroleum-based products for specific industrial uses. They will look at using renewable agricultural fibre in biocomposite materials and integrating advanced production of purpose-grown agricultural fibres and other farm residues with technologies for bioplastic and biocomposite manufacturing applications.

“This funding is a win-win scenario, providing much needed support for this University-industry collaborative project,” said John Livernois, U of G’s interim vice-president (research).

“It will allow us to provide solutions for real-world applications while conducting leading-edge research.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said, “Our government is proud to support this collaborative research project, which will lead to new and innovative agriculturally based products that will help farmers safeguard the environment.”

The U of G project is part of a $6-million initiative to create a strong value chain in Canadian agro-biomass from farmer to consumer.

Guelph professors Amar Mohanty, Department of Plant Agriculture, and Manjusri Misra, School of Engineering, are heading the University project entitled “Design and Engineering of Sustainable Agro-based Biocomposites and Bioplastics for Industrial Uses”  along with industrial partners Competitive Green Technologies, New Energy Farms and a fiber formatting Ontario Company.

“Bioproducts are the wave of the future,” said Mohanty, BDDC director. He holds the Premier’s Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation.

He said interest in bioproducts and biobased materials continues to grow amid worldwide to improve environmental sustainability as well as in reducing  the greenhouse gas emissions and  dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels.

“This timely investment will accelerate the creation of innovative green biomaterials-based solutions to create a sustainable competitive advantage for rural development and new job creation in Ontario and beyond in the fast growing bioeconomy,” Mohanty said.

“Sustainability and sustainable products are becoming a part of the global race that can give manufacturers a competitive advantage. We need to work together to drive innovation and product commercialization,” Mohanty said.

Misra, also a BDDC researcher, said the U of G centre aims to integrate its research with industry manufacturing technologies to make sustainable products.

“At the same time, we’re providing our research team with learning opportunities by engaging them in the entire process,” she said.

The BDDC opened in 2008 to develop plant-based substitutes for non-renewable materials in many manufacturing sectors and consumer goods and services.

Researchers at BDDC are looking predominantly at non-food biobased foodstocks, including agricultural residues,co-products from biofuel and food processing industries as well as purpose grown natural fibers for use in biocomposite materials.  The focus is on engineering new biomaterials that focuses on a low-carbon economy through revolutionary use of agricultural products for new industrial uses, ranging from car parts and consumer products to eco-friendly packaging materials.

An expansion in 2013 added cutting-edge research equipment and commercialization facilities.