New biomass research cluster seeks enhance production of clean bioenergy in Canada

Mark Mann
February 13, 2019

A new biomass research cluster led by the BioFuelNet Canada Network will receive a $7-million investment from the federal government, along with $3.1 million from industry. Biomass is produced from plant and animal waste materials and can be a source of biogas and other forms of clean energy. Biomass Canada Cluster’s research aims to improve technologies that process agricultural biomass to create starting materials for producing bioenergy and bio-based products. In this way, the cluster will support agricultural producers by adding value to agricultural wastes and production from marginal lands, said Don Smith, CEO and scientific director of the BioFuelNet Canada Network, in a speech at the launch of the cluster held at McGill University.

The research conducted by the Biomass Canada Cluster will seek to improve the technologies and market opportunities for biomass, bioenergy and bioproducts in three areas: 1) technologies that increase biomass production; 2) using biomass heat and energy to extend the greenhouse growing season in the North; and 3) reducing production costs and expanding export markets. For example, a project at McGill University seeks to develop biological inputs for enhancing the growth of biomass crops, such as switchgrass.

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BioFuelNet Canada Network was funded through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program from 2012 to 2017. In 2014, the network identified issues in the bioeconomy related to biomass availability and supply, and they made a decision to focus on generating biomass and moving it to market. As their NCE funding drew to a close, they were able to obtain funding for the new Biomass Canada Cluster through the AgriScience Program, a five-year, $338-million initiative to support pre-commercial science activities and cutting-edge research in the agricultural and agri-food sector.  The AgriScience Program is part of the the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion program launched in Budget 2018 that emphasizes innovative and sustainable growth in the sector.

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