An assessment of the opportunities and challenges of a bio-based economy for Agriculture and Food Research in Canada
The replacement of petrochemical-based industrial chemicals with chemicals derived from renewable biological materials is a very worthy and alluring objective. The reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG), the lessening of dependence on non-renewable resources, the increase in markets for farm products, and the potential for new industries in widely distributed geographic locations across the nation are all outcomes which are attractive to many Canadians. This study, commissioned by the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (CARC) and the BIOCAP Canada Foundation (BIOCAP), is intended to give Canadian researchers, legislators and the public in general a better understanding of the research issues involved in this highly complex industry. Specific effort has been made to focus the study on a selected number of industrial sectors which might play an important role, not only in the control of GHG emissions, but also in providing new economic opportunities to farmers and rural communities. The potential role for biofuels including ethanol, biodiesel, methane and other bioenergy sources have been given specific attention. Also covered in this study are bioplastics, bioadhesives, biocomposites, biolubricants and platform chemicals; all sectors which could have a significant contribution to an evolving bio-based economy. Sectors such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, nutraceuticals, surfactants, and bio-based inks, (all of great interest to many researchers and business leaders) are not covered due to the attention they continue to receive elsewhere, and their relatively modest impact on GHG and other climate issues. The work covered in this report was deliberately focussed on research and development. Market and economic topics are touched on for context purposes, but are not dealt with in any depth, as they are the focus of other studies currently in progress. Specifically, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), with assistance from Industry Canada, is currently supporting a major study aimed at identifying commercial opportunities in the same sectors as are the focus of this study.