Researchers aim to unlock potential of Canada's next oilseed
A plant that was once considered a weed is now showing promise as an alternative source of oil for fish and animal feeds, and even jet fuel.
Camelina (False Flax), known for its hardy growing nature and high oil content is the subject of a unique research project linking researchers across Canada, and as far away as Germany. The project received $2.8 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency - Atlantic Innovation Fund, a significant part of its $6.1 million budget.
"It's a project with enormous potential," said Steve Armstrong, president and CEO of Genome Atlantic, the project proponent. "If we unlock the genetic clues to this plant, the benefits to Canada could be astronomical."
Armstrong is referring to the many commercial possibilities of camelina. In Atlantic Canada, the aquaculture industry is particularly interested in its potential as a replacement for fish meal and oils, which have cost and sustainability concerns.
The biofuels world is also very interested in camelina oil as a 'green' source of fuel, particularly for jets, one of the biggest carbon producers. Testing in the last 18 months has shown camelina to be an outstanding jet fuel replacement, with above average reductions in carbon emissions in production and processing.
From an agricultural perspective, camelina can grow in harsher conditions than many other plants, meaning it can be grown on lands not reserved for food crops, and could provide a rotational cash crop.
"The foundation of the genetic information, coupled with the immense expertise of the Canadian agriculture and aquaculture research community, could make this the next 'Made in Canada' oilseed," says Armstrong.
Other institutions with a major role in the project include the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, and Genome Prairie, a sister organization to Genome Atlantic. A full list of partners and a complete description of the project are available upon request.
Genome Atlantic is a not-for-profit organization committed to enabling large-scale gene-discovery projects that provide economic, environmental and social benefits to Atlantic Canada. To date, they have enabled over $60 million in gene-discovery projects covering a variety of sectors, including human health, aquaculture, agriculture, forestry and the environment.