Cannabis, canola, solids, hog fuel, wheat: what’s new with food and feedstocks?

August 7, 2018 |

We eat it, we wear it, we burn it, we glue it, we live in it and more. Feedstock that is — crops and residues of the municipal, industrial, agricultural and forest type. We’ve been reporting all the innovations in making new stuff from this old stuff. But who’s doing what to make old stuff new? Turns out, a lot.


Benson Hill Biosystems Launches Saturn Agrosciences Subsidiary to Drive Canola Improvement

In Missouri, Benson Hill Biosystems has formed Saturn Agrosciences, a new subsidiary focused on canola improvement. Saturn will build on progress initiated last year through a partnership between Benson Hill and the University of Guelph, with funding from the Canadian Government’s Genome Applications Partnership Program (GAPP)to develop more sustainable and healthier varieties of canola.

Canola is a crop with exceptional health benefits that has not received sufficient focus to tap its full genetic potential.  According to the 2018 International Food Information Council annual survey, heart health was the primary nutrition and diet goal cited by consumers.  “Canola oil has one of the most heart-healthy fatty acid profiles of all oils,” said Dr. Christine Rosenbloom, RDN, and co-author of Food and Fitness After 50. “As consumers seek more healthy food choices, canola oil offers an ideal option for food manufacturers and service providers looking to lower trans-fats in their offerings.”

Benson Hill’s CropOS cognitive computational platform and suite of genomics tools enable innovators to identify and optimize genes of interest to develop better crops and food ingredients.  Saturn is currently advancing Benson Hill’s portfolio of photosynthesis enhancing traits and will work with partners interested in canola oil and protein to develop traits for yield, sustainability, healthier oil composition, and higher protein content.

“Saturn Agrosciences is an example of our commitment to empower innovation with both the genomic expertise and the R&D models our partners need,” said Matthew Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill Biosystems.  “Whether it’s a seed company interested in accessing the most advanced genomics tools for their R&D program, or a food company with no genomic R&D capacity interested in sourcing better ingredients, we provide the technology, the partnership model, and the infrastructure necessary to deliver.”


Greenspire Global Expands Distribution Network for cannabis, greenhouse, ag

In Iowa, Greenspire Global, Inc. has expanded its distribution network in response to growing product demand, and its products are now available through:

Cannabis industry – Central Garden & Pet Company, Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, urban-gro
Greenhouse industry – Griffin Greenhouse Supplies
Ag industry – Helena Agri-Enterprises, FamilyFarms Group, Farmers Business Network

Greenspire Global’s products include Procidic2, an agricultural bactericide and fungicide specifically developed for cannabis and hemp grown indoors or in open fields, and Procidic, an organic fungicide and bactericide formulated to protect crops during all stages of growth. Distribution will further expand on September 1, making Procidic available to Florida growers.

“As part of our ongoing effort to provide growers options to grow crops more naturally,” says Steve Knauss, “we’ve partnered with additional distributors to make our products more readily available across the market.”


Critical plant gene could boost biofuel yields

In Tennessee, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered a critical gene in poplar plants that consistently revealed mutations that was not previously known to exist. They found that poplar plants with certain mutations created unexpectedly low levels of lignin across different environments and tree ages.

“This enzyme’s unique behavior contrasts with conventional wisdom in the plant community,” Muchero said. “While we do not know how this new function came about in poplar, we now know that this enzyme exhibits the same behavior in other plant species.”

“At first, we thought it was a mistake, because the enzyme does not need to bind DNA to perform its known function,” said Muchero, a biologist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “We repeated the experiment multiple times and kept seeing evidence in the data that the same gene involved in making amino acids also regulates the function of genes involved in producing lignin. This regulation is happening at a higher level in the plant’s overall biological system,” he added.

As they continued their research, the scientists noted the amino acid-producing enzyme deviated from its anticipated journey through the plant’s cells seeking out chloroplasts, which contain chlorophyll, the molecule that absorbs energy from sunlight, giving plants their green color and capturing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Instead, their work revealed something unexpected: the additional section of the enzyme allowed the enzyme to enter the nucleus, which is the plant cell’s brain center, and “moonlight” as a DNA-binding regulator of gene expression.
Discovering the direct connection opens new opportunities to tweak how lignin is produced in poplar without impacting other biological processes that could kill the plant.


Evogene Announces Positive Yield Results in its Bio-Stimulant Program for Wheat

In Israel, Evogene has achieved positive yield results leading to phase advancement in its bio-stimulant for wheat program. This phase advancement, from discovery to initial development, is based on meeting efficacy criteria in spring wheat field trials with significant yield improvements of 10%-20%.

Having moved to the development stage, efforts are now focused on advancement of formulation technology and fermentation protocols for the improvement of performance consistency and to reduce production costs. Further steps will include field trials in the US in the coming season followed with expansion into Western Canada, which are the key geographies for a 1st product launch.

Ido Dor, EVP and GM, Ag-Biologicals stated: “We are proud of the progress achieved in our bio-stimulant program for wheat which signifies an important step in the process of increasing wheat crop productivity. Ag-biological products are an environmentally friendly alternative which will also make wheat a healthier choice for consumers. We look forward to updating you as we continue to move towards commercialization with these candidates and with others from our diverse ag-bio product portfolio which now includes stimulants, insecticides and fungicides.”

Ofer Haviv, Evogene’s President and CEO stated: “Ag-Biologicals are an exciting area of activity for Evogene in that successful product development could provide opportunities for a relatively near-term product launch. Furthermore, the wheat market is significantly less centralized, allowing companies like ours to potentially commercialize directly with distributers, thus capturing a larger portion of final product revenues.”

Solid waste

New Report Documents Waste-To-Energy Use in Europe, Identifies Opportunities in North America

In Maryland, a new report issued by the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (Applied Research Foundation documents the reasons for the extensive use of thermal treatment of municipal solid waste in waste-to-energy facilities in Europe. The report, “Thermal Treatment of Residual Waste: Lessons from Europe,” investigates why developed countries in Western Europe have embraced thermal treatment and are processing 97 million tons of residual waste in over 500 WTE facilities located in 22 countries.

“European thermal treatment facilities were developed to meet landfill treatment and stabilization requirements, as well as recover energy for electricity and heat generation and additional materials for recycling,” said Jeremy O’Brien, P.E., SWANA’s Director of Applied Research. “A key motivation in Europe is to treat residual MSW that is not targeted for recycling in order to destroy any hazardous organic substances in the waste and ensure that it is biologically and chemically stable before it is disposed in landfills.”

“This report provides a significant analysis of the differences underlying the use of WTE in the United States and Canada compared to Europe. In Europe, WTE facilities often are needed to comply with EU and national requirements to treat and stabilize waste before landfill disposal,” said David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO.  “In the U.S., many WTE facilities were built in response to a perceived landfill shortage more than twenty years ago, and there was a focus on volume reduction. With landfill capacity getting tighter in certain parts of the U.S., particularly New England, there may be additional new opportunities for WTE.”

Hog fuel

Development of international standards for solid biofuels advanced

In Finland, the 10th annual meeting of ISO/TC238, Solid Biofuels, was hosted by Finland, and representatives from fifteen nations participated, including Chile and Japan for the first time.

Among the new or expanded work items discussed at the recent meeting were classification of hog fuel and splitting the determination of fines content in pellets into two methods, one being a reference method for use in laboratories and the other a simplified method for use at field and production sites. Progress was made on a number of existing projects, including a simplified sampling method, water sorption of thermally treated biofuel pellets (to include the measurement of water uptake, changes in durability, and the creation of “weathered fines” as a result of wetting), and a number of projects covering various aspects of industrial and personal safety. When approved and published, these documents will be available for use on a worldwide basis. To date ISO/TC238 has published 34 standards for solid biofuels, has 11 registered projects, and will be adding new projects into the queue as the outcome of this meeting.

As administrator of the US Technical Advisory Group to TC238, ASABE coordinates US input on developing standards and responses to balloted proposals.


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