Lab Canada

New research centre to cultivate growth in value-added agriculture

Edmonton, AB – A new $25-million research facility at the University of Alberta will form the centrepiece of food safety and agricultural product development research in Alberta.

The Agri-Food Discovery Place (AFDP), which opened last week, will support three main research areas: meat safety, crop use for food – including research into nutritionally enhanced food – and crop use for industrial products, like bio-degradable fuel sources and bio-plastics.

Dr David Bressler, a University of Alberta expert in the conversion of agricultural byproducts into value-added products, will benefit from the two wings of the new facility. The Meat Safety and Processing Research Unit will provide him with needed fermentation facilities, and the Crop Utilization and Enhanced Materials Research Unit will help him in processing solvents derived from crops. The facility as a whole will allow him to scale-up his work in a very major way, he says.

Meat safety researcher Dr Lynn McMullen says the Meat Safety and Processing Research Centre section of the Agri-Food Discovery Place will improve the accuracy of her work by simulating real-life industry conditions. “One thing I’ve learned is that what I do in the test tube does not translate to the meat product,” she says. “It’s a very different environment and we can’t replicate what happens in a meat product in a test tube.”

The $6.25-million Alberta Lipid Utilization Research Program will also be housed at the new facility. The interdisciplinary team is composed of 41 scientists who work with lipids from plants and animals to find new applications in both food uses (low trans-fat foods and low-saturated fat foods, for instance) and non-food uses (including cosmetics, bio-lubricants and bio-hydraulics).

Dr Suresh Narine, who leads the research program, says the group will conduct a significant amount of high-value, lipid applications at the centre, as well as plastics work.

The AFDP has received funding from numerous partners, including Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s Bio-Industrial Technologies Division, whose researchers will share space at the AFDP, Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Western Economic Diversification Canada, Cargill and the Canadian Wheat Board

Reported by Caitlin Crawshaw