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Memorial connections to national study

By Jeff Green

Two Memorial researchers are playing a role in a new project which aims to unlock the potential of Canada’s next oilseed.

Their work got a major boost from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Atlantic Innovation Fund on Jan. 25.

Dr. Matthew Rise, Canada Research Chair in Marine Biotechnology, and Dr. Chris Parrish, a professor at the Ocean Sciences Centre, are part of the project which received a $2.8 million investment from ACOA.

The Memorial portion of the work makes up more than $870,000 of the project’s overall budget of $6.2 million.

Drs. Rise and Parrish are the Memorial leads on the project which also includes other universities in Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan, as well as Genome Atlantic, the project proponent and the not-for-profit corporation dedicated to fundamental and applied research in genomics.

The goal of the large-scale project is to further explore the potential a plant – once considered a weed – is showing 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.

Some experts believe the plant has many commercial possibilities.
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 future of the aquaculture industry is highly dependent on reducing the amount of fish meal and oil in feeds, and on the development of a suitable replacement for these ingredients,” said Dr. Rise.

“This project will directly facilitate research needs related to the development of sustainable aquaculture by enabling us to understand the effectiveness of Camelina-based test diets for cod and salmonid aquaculture.”

Other institutions playing a role in the project include the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, and Genome Prairie, a sister organization to Genome Atlantic.
Memorial has a number of representatives on the board of directors of Genome Atlantic including Dave King, president and CEO of Genesis Group; and Dr. Kevin Keough, professor emeritus of biochemistry.
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