BioLAB Business Winter 2022/23

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LAB PROFILE

BRIL working toward a bio-renewable future

APPLICATION NOTE

New discovery identifies novel method to produce hydrogen from seawater

THE WONDERS OF WORLD-CHANGING,

LIFE-SAVING TECHNOLOGIES

Revolutionizing traceability with nature′s DNA

BioLABmag.com VOLUME 37, ISSUE 7 • 2022-23
BIOLABMAG.COM 3 9 AVIVO ENHANCING BLOOD TRANSFUSION AND ORGAN TRANSPLANT PRACTICES Enzyme-based technology changing the medical world, one blood type at a time inside standard SUZUKI MATTERS 6 CANADIAN NEWS 7 WORLDWIDE NEWS 8 LABWARE 30 MOMENTS IN TIME 54 feature SPECIAL GUEST EDITORIAL 5 RESHAPING CANADA’S LIFE SCIENCES SECTOR FEATURE 12 SEEING IS BELIEVING In P.E.I., researchers are using machine learning and advanced sensor technologies to improve crop productivity and reduce agricultural waste NEWSMAKER 16 MORE EFFECTIVE COVID-19 DRUG TREATMENTS ENABLED THROUGH ENHANCED UNDERSTANDING OF VIRAL PROTEIN In the ongoing fight against the disruptive virus, a breakthrough has been made through study and research NEWSMAKER 14 THE DIGITIZATION OF MODERN MEDICINE As science and medicine evolve, their intersect is resulting in groundbreaking innovation LAB PROFILE 18 BRIL WORKING TOWARD A BIO-RENEWABLE FUTURE The search for cleaner energy is ending up in the waste COMPANY PROFILE 22 REVOLUTIONIZING |TRACEABILITY WITH NATURE’S DNA Innovative identifying tagging technology allowing for producers and manufacturers to securely link product to its supply chain data APPLICATION NOTE 27 NEW DISCOVERY IDENTIFIES NOVEL METHOD TO PRODUCE HYDROGEN FROM SEAWATER Scientists at McGill University uncover potential energy game-changer LOOK INSIDE FOR YOUR COPY OF

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THE DIGITIZATION OF LIFE SCIENCES

Overthe course of the past couple of years, the world has been undergoing an accelerated digitization of epic proportions, influencing behaviour and modifying environments across the globe. It’s impacted industries and sectors of business and innovation everywhere. However, the impacts of our current digitization may be most significant on the work and research being conducted by life sciences professionals.

Within this issue of BioLab Business magazine, and the ways in which digital technologies and advancements are supporting this incredibly valuable work, the positive impact that enabled discoveries have on life all over the world, and the potential these technologies and innovations pose in helping to sustain improvements happening across the entire life sciences sector.

We take a look at the groundbreaking glycomics and metagenomics research being conducted by Avivo Biomedical to support its discovery of a way by which blood types can be converted, and discuss ways in which its technology may revolutionize blood transfusion and organ transplant procedures. We also dive into the development of a structure that uses graphene oxide, presenting a potentially new and improved method for producing hydrogen from seawater.

In addition, we highlight the work being done by Index Biosystems which uses baker’s yeast as an organic carrier of information, connecting physical product to supply chain data through the use of its proprietary technology. And, the latest in bio-renewable creativity and innovation is uncovered within the Bio-Renewable Innovation Laboratory at the University of Guelph.

These are just a few of the examples of the positive ramifications resulting from technological advancement within life sciences, but do well to illustrate the range of impact that it’s currently influencing.

With an eye on the future and overcoming some of the biggest challenges that we face in ensuring sustained human advancement, the role that technology plays is critical. Connecting research and researchers, enhancing laboratories with the latest equipment and technological tools, and providing a means by which to generate and store valuable research data, technology is enabling the life-changing, awe-inspiring work happening across the country and the world. And, for the sake of humanity, long may the innovation and advancement of digital technologies continue.

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EDITOR’S NOTE 4 BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23

THE ROAD TO RESHAPING CANADA’S LIFE SCIENCES SECTOR

A revolution is coming—one that will forever change the ways we treat Canada’s most pressing healthcare problems. Are you ready?

Thecountry’s healthcare and biomanufacturing sectors, which have been evolving for decades, are finally gaining momentum as innovation accelerates. But to capitalize on this momentum and protect the future of the life sciences industry, these sectors need to increase their manufacturing capabilities and modernize how they serve Canadians through technology by overhauling traditional systems and optimizing business operations to deliver better outcomes and long-term growth.

INNOVATION AT THE FOREFRONT

Fostering innovation is key to creating and testing effective blueprints for new structures and processes by using data and technology. Bringing the life sciences industries into the digital future will require major investments, coupled with equally big changes in strategy and thinking. And this starts with keeping intellectual property and knowledge on Canadian soil to build up medical excellence.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups have the building blocks needed to spark innovation—from great research facilities to academic institutions and access to top talent. Next, we need to enable them to scale up to compete and capture global market share, helping to position Canada as a leader in the fast-growing life sciences industry.

A consistent theme that emerged during a recent EY Life Sciences webcast was how executives in the sector are grappling to scale digital designs, concepts, solutions and technologies due to lack of funding and adherence to traditional operating models and older platforms. When it comes to Canada’s response to COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout, for example, the pandemic has underscored the need to move more rapidly in developing and adapting new products and strategies.

To make this happen, supply chains need to be more secure and reliable, and Canadian product development needs to be able to pivot to respond quickly to address areas of immediate need. Increasing

investment in the growth of early-stage biotech and medtech companies, along with research and development initiatives, will not only protect Canadians but also provide economic benefits to businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, while connecting researchers with start-up companies.

DIGITALLY ENABLED MODELS

In response to the pandemic, a deep vein of virtual care arose, showing us that technologies are the bridge to building smarter health systems. Canadians learned a lot about their own healthcare system and other global systems during this time, and virtual care and telehealth offered a new way forward for clinical and operational models, leading to greater efficiency, more personalized healthcare and improved experiences.

As life sciences organizations consider their path forward, creating an effective data environment that supports a more human-centered approach will be an urgent need. To transition to a connected health ecosystem, organizations need to get the technical, operational and cultural changes right. That will enable them to capitalize on the potential of massive health data sets to drive actions and ultimately lead to improved health outcomes, better clinical outcomes, more efficient care delivery, and lower healthcare costs.

Today, data models do more than report data to providers—they are used to inform clinical decision-making, reduce unnecessary medical errors and provide care continuity across multiple care settings. At the enterprise level, intelligence functions convert data into actionable insights around population health, clinical decision support and streamlining operations for greater efficiencies.

Of course, there are still major challenges to realizing the vision of a personalized health ecosystem. But healthcare organizations that turn data actions into economic results by focusing

on creating truly patient-centred, datadriven products and offerings have the greatest opportunity to lead the transformation of health and wellness in Canada.

FUTURE-READY WORKFORCE

Healthcare organizations will achieve success when they see that the way forward is built around data, technologies and human capacities that grow the business of tomorrow, rather than just repeating today’s procurement and training cycles. To avoid ceding value in the future, health and life sciences organizations need to consider how their products and services will align with the emerging data infrastructure. This may mean identifying the right talent to work with—or being bold and making the first move to build that infrastructure.

Bringing new products to market in a digital world will require collaboration across a range of disciplines, including software and product development, branding and pricing, data engineering, scientific research, tax and legal. It will also require agile new product development through rapid prototyping, testing and refinement. Organizations that want to stay one step ahead will need to develop a workforce strategy that addresses the shifts in workforce supply and demand resulting from automation, shifting skillsets and the nature of job roles. And finally, a new mix of leadership skills will be needed to lead talent in the digital era.

Implementing future-proof infrastructure and capabilities will be critical to laying the foundations for the next generation of patient-centred products and services, and health-related start-ups. By enabling innovation, tapping into digital and increasing investment, the Canadian life sciences sector can bulldoze obstacles and reframe itself to underpin a better future.

Read more insights at www.ey.com/en_ca/life-sciences

BIOLABMAG.COM 5 GUEST EDITORIAL

FINDING OUR PLACE ALONG THE GRAND SCALE

Astrophysicist Adam Frank and colleagues say the scientific shift changed the historical observer status assigned to the scientist. He writes that we can no longer expect to know the world “in itself, outside our ways of seeing and acting on things. Experience is just as fundamental to scientific knowledge as the physical reality it reveals.”

Labatut writes, “Physics ought not to concern itself with reality, but rather with what we can say about reality.” What we say about reality is, in other words, our stories, borne from our relationships with the world(s) around us.

Quantum mechanics describes nature in a way that is different from how we usually think about science.

As Heisenberg explains, “When we speak of the science of our era, we are talking about our relationship with nature, not as objective, detached observers, but as actors in a game between man and the world.”

Almostweekly, we’re glimpsing deeper into our universe through increasingly fine-tuned telescopes and lenses. Astronomers recently released the most detailed images of the distant Orion Nebula 1,300 light years away. Earlier this past summer, they discovered 21 “white dwarf” candidate stars and the most distant galaxy ever observed.

The amount we have to learn is endless—as vast as the universe, or multiple universes, in which we and our planet spin. It’s exciting and sometimes discomfiting to realize how much we don’t yet know.

Surprisingly, when the lens is flipped to observe the underpinnings of life rather than the galaxy’s outer limits, there’s even less certainty.

In When We Cease to Understand the World, Benjamin Labatut describes how the arrival of quantum mechanics upended the linear path that, up to that point, had exponentially increased our scientific success in reducing the world to smaller and smaller known pieces.

At a conference in 1927 of the world’s greatest scientists, Labatut explains, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr presented their startling vision of quantum mechanics. It describes how “an electron is not in any fixed place until it is measured; it is only in that instant that it appears. Before being measured, it has no attributes; prior to observation, it cannot even be conceived of.” Through this discovery, scientific thinkers came face to face with the limits of our capacity to fully understand life’s building blocks in concrete terms.

Heisenberg also introduced the “uncertainty principle,” which states that the position and momentum of a particle can’t both be measured with precision. The more accurately you know one value, the less accurately you know the other.

Quantum mechanics changed the trajectory of science. As Wikipedia explains, “Quantum mechanics describes nature in a way that is different from how we usually think about science. It tells us how likely to happen some things are, rather than telling us that they certainly will happen.” Although its arrival changed the reductionist nature of some scientific paths, its inherent uncertainty didn’t make it less valuable. Quantum mechanics is foundational to chemistry and cosmology.

Although we find ourselves in between two poles of uncertainty—the infinitesimally small and the infinitely grand—our (even nominal) understanding of quantum mechanics can help us gain perspective.

To start, we can embrace with humility the realization that we’re far from fully understanding, and will likely never fully understand, the mechanisms that determine nature and reality. Science is not absolute, but we can learn to thrive within this lack of certainty. It can help us to approach the world with more curiosity and wonder.

As writer Marilynne Robinson says, we should look to “sciences whose terms and methods can overturn the assumptions of the inquirers” rather than that which “simply insists on the truth value of its assumptions.”

And we can act in accordance with what we do know, such as our ever expanding appreciation of the profound interactions that make life possible—from the elaborate mycelial networks underground to the global carbon cycle, from quantum to cosmic. We continually observe our world and describe it back to each other, revising understandings over time.

Our experiences will always be a part of our “reality.” The two cannot be teased apart. And we always face uncertainty. But in the absence of certainty there lies probability, between countless series of possible outcomes. Collectively, we can change the world by striving for the best of what is possible, through our relationships with nature and each other.

6 SUZUKI MATTERS BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

Prestigious 2022 Killam Prize recognizes Dalhousie researchers

Two researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax, have won Canada’s top award for research excellence, the $100,000 Killam Prize. Françoise Baylis is a leading voice in human genome editing for reproduction, and Jeff Dahn is a major force in battery science creating urgently needed sustainable energy solutions.

As one of the world’s leading bioethicists, Françoise Baylis says that using her platform as an academic to raise awareness about injustice has been a driving force of her career.

“At one time I thought I could change the world—and then I grew up. I realized the most I could hope for is to influence people who have a whole lot more power than me. It was an important reframing of what my contribution could be—and that’s to make the powerful care,” said Baylis, who was the Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy for 14 years.

Making people care is the mantra that she says pushes her to weigh in on some of the world’s most hotly contested issues. Most recently, it has taken her into a leading role in the debate about the ethics of using human-genome editing for reproduction.

“People seem to think that the only question is whether the science is safe and effective,” she says. “But that doesn’t answer the more important question of what kind of world we want to live in. That isn’t a question about facts; it’s a question about values.”

In 2019, she became a member of the WHO Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing. Currently, she is a member of the planning committee for the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing scheduled for 2023. In 2020, she won the PROSE Award in Clinical Medicine for her book Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing It’s one of 18 other books, 100 peerreviewed articles and more than 40 expert testimony appearances and briefs for the Canadian federal government. She is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. In 2017, she was awarded the Canadian Bioethics Society Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2021 she was elected to the Governing Board of the International Science Council.

Building a bigger, better battery has driven Jeff Dahn’s research for the last 40 years. A global expert in lithium-ion batteries, Dahn’s pioneering research has driven innovation in the field and helped create the science necessary for lithium-ion batteries to become a preferred power source for such things as portable electronic devices and electric vehicles. Now, he is focused on building the technology to make the batteries last even longer, possibly even

In 2019, Dahn was awarded the Royal Society of Canada’s prestigious Henry Marshall Tory Medal for outstanding research. And in 2020, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Two spinoff companies have come out of his Dalhousie lab: DPM Solutions, a supplier of custom-designed machine solutions, and Novonix, a battery and technology company that brings better battery technology to market rapidly. It produces and sells high-precision battery test equipment and synthetic graphite for use in lithium-ion batteries. Dahn says he will use his Killam Prize to support the Jeff Dahn Bursary in Physics, and to aid a new start-up from his lab, Zen Electric Bikes.

Window on marine ecosystem health

Photo credit: Nick Pearce

for decades.

“Over the years, we have made many useful contributions in all areas of lithium-ion battery technology, ranging from faster charge, higher energy density, improved safety and most recently, longer lifetime,” said Dahn, referencing the work of his lab at Dalhousie. “Positive electrode materials that were actually invented in the labs of Dalhousie are used in some lithium-ion batteries today.”

Dahn’s work has covered fundamental physics in insertion compounds, as well as technical engineering issues in batteries.

“The lithium-ion battery is a multidisciplinary puzzle,” he explains. “There is lots of great science to do with a huge payback to society. I have been in the game since the beginning and have witnessed lithium-ion batteries take over and dominate so many different markets.”

Dahn has co-authored over 750 refereed journal papers and has coinvented 73 inventions with patents issued or filed. He is a winner of both research and technology awards of the Battery Division of the Electrochemical Society. In 2017, he received the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Herzberg Canada Gold Medal—Canada’s top science prize.

Scientists at Simon Fraser University have developed a new science-based indicator that measures oceanic biodiversity to help with marine management. While loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity on land is documented, the extent to which these patterns appear in the oceans is not yet known. The researchers examined seven decades of records on the extinction risk of predatory fishes including 52 populations of 18 different species of tuna, billfish and sharks. They found that since the 1950s the global extinction risk of oceanic predatory fishes, particularly sharks, has continuously worsened due to excessive fishing pressure until the late 2000s.

New biomanufacturing training centre opens

The Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences has officially opened their new biomanufacturing training facility in Charlottetown. Equipped with laboratories and classrooms, the new centre contains state-of-the-art pilot-scale bioprocessing equipment that will allow employees to gain practical skills that are immediately transferable to process, scale-up and clean room environments.

BIOLABMAG.COM 7
CANADIAN NEWS

NEW RESEARCH CENTRE TO BRING WORLD’S BEST MEASURING DEVICE OUT OF THE LAB

A new collaborative research centre of excellence will develop ultra-precise measuring devices that could enable game-changing science, such as better medical screening technologies and carbon emissions monitoring. RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, will lead a consortium of universities and industry partners in the new $72 million ARC Centre of Excellence in Optical Microcombs for Breakthrough Science (COMBS).

The consortium will focus on bringing optical frequency comb technology—which translates electronic signals into light waves for high-precision measurement—out of the lab and into a wide range of real-world applications.

Centre Director and RMIT Distinguished Professor, Arnan Mitchell says it's a major milestone in the growing momentum of optical frequency comb technology: “A photonic chip industry has finally emerged and the unique technology it produces will transform many fields of science.”

The multi-disciplinary COMBS team includes worldleading experts from eight Australian universities (Australian National University, Monash, Swinburne, University of Technology Sydney, University of South Australia, Adelaide and Sydney) and 23 global partner organizations including The Garvan Institute, Advanced Navigation and the National Measurement Institute.

Investment in the centre will support the development of a diverse researcher workforce engaging collaboratively across fundamental science and technology, enabling advances in multiple application areas.

“The power of real-time information delivered by microcomb technologies is truly transformative. Microcombs will transform the way we measure everything around us, and in doing so change how we communicate, travel and live our lives,” said RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, Professor Calum Drummond.

WILD CHIMPANZEES SHOW OBJECTS SIMPLY TO SHARE ATTENTION

Researchers from the British universities of York and Warwick have captured video evidence of a wild chimpanzee showing an object to its mother simply for sharing’s sake—social behaviour previously thought to be unique to humans. They examined more than 80 similar leaf-grooming events in order to rule out alternative explanations for the behaviour, including food sharing and initiating grooming or playing. Researchers suggest that the discovery could have implications concerning our understanding of the evolution of human social cognition and what makes human minds unique. Next, they will conduct further research on communities of chimpanzees to see if they can observe other chimps engaging in this showing and sharing behaviour.

Stickers that can see inside the body

MIT engineers have unveiled new stamp-sized ultrasound adhesives that produce clear images of a patient’s heart, lungs, and other internal organs. With the potential to eliminate the cumbersome wands and probes currently in use by trained technicians, the new technology might make getting an ultrasound as simple as buying a band-aid at your local pharmacy. If the devices can be made to operate wirelessly—a goal the team is currently working toward—the ultrasound stickers could be made into wearable imaging products that patients could take home from a doctor’s office. The researchers applied the stickers to volunteers and showed that the devices produced live, high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs, and stomach, for 48 hours, even while volunteers were active.

GUT BACTERIA ARE ESSENTIAL FOR DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOR IN FISH

University of Oregon scientists have shown that microorganisms are essential for normal social behaviours in zebrafish because they influence brain development. The transparent skin of zebrafish larvae offered the scientists a rare window into their neural development. It enabled them to investigate the larvae, reared with or without the presence of their normal microbiota, for the first seven days of development. According to the study published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, they found that larvae without their microbiota had fewer immune cells in their forebrains and denser, more complex neural branching patterns, which affected their neural and social development.

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Centre Director, Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell

AVIVO

ENHANCING BLOOD TRANSFUSION AND ORGAN TRANSPLANT PRACTICES

Enzyme-based technology changing the medical world, one blood type at a time

BIOLABMAG.COM 9 FEATURE STORY

Whenit comes to breakthroughs and innovations that present the potential to completely transform the way healthcare professionals work and administer their services, there are few companies that can boast more significantly than Avivo Biomedical. The B.C.-based preclinical stage company is currently revolutionizing blood transfusion and organ transplant practices through the development of its uniquely innovative technology that enables the conversion of blood types, creating universal donors. According to John Coleman, the company’s President and CEO, it’s technology that is not only set to transform healthcare, but is set to transform lives as well.

“Blood transfusions and organ transplants are often lifesaving procedures,” he said. “And anyone who receives this type of care have their lives transformed as well, especially for people who are on chronic dialysis for kidney failure. Many people essentially end up getting their lives back. We believe that by making sure that there are more O [blood type] organs available increases their usability given the fact they are universal type organs. Currently, there are an inordinate amount of organs that are not utilized to their full potential because they are the wrong blood type for transplant. In fact, because of this, many of them aren’t even harvested. Our technology alleviates this issue and enables the transplant of more life-saving and transforming organs.”

Advanced research

Avivo’s technology, which can convert whole human blood and organs from Type A to Type O, represents a massive breakthrough and the emergence of a number of different opportunities when considering the ways in which it can help the purveyors of healthcare all over the world. And, as Coleman explains, it’s technology that was borne from the years of research that’s come before it. It had been observed by Dr. Peter Rahfeld, Professor Stephen G. Withers and Professor Jayachandran Kizzhakedathu of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British

Columbiathat Type A patients who had sepsis would display what’s called acquired B syndrome, which simply means that their blood type seemed to somehow be changing as a result of the sepsis.

“It led many to believe that if this was the case, then there must be some enzymes in the human microbiome that are leaking into the gut and causing this transformation,” he says. “So, researchers went looking for the enzymes, and through a glycomic and metagenomic approach, they were able to identify an enzyme pair that’s able to selectively cleave the terminal sugar off of the A antigen and convert it into an H antigen which represents the O type of blood.”

Alleviating incompatible transplantation

As Coleman points out, a substantial proportion of organs are not utilized because there is a mismatch concerning the blood types between organ and recipient. It represents another bottleneck in the process that he suggests is eliminated

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FEATURE STORY 10

through the development and leveraging of Avivo Biomedical’s technology and platform.

“Our technology addresses the issues related to incompatible transplantation, transplants across the blood barrier, enabling and facilitating the transplant of deceased donor organs,” he says. “Currently, these types of transplants are really only performed using living donor organs in which patients are pretreated for several weeks to desensitize them in order to get them ready for the transplant. With our technology, we’re essentially converting and desensitizing the organ to allow it to go into the patient, signifying a real step change in how organ transplants occur going forward.”

Filling a blood shortage

It’s remarkable work that the company has done to this point, building off of years of scientific research and discovery, to stand on the medical precipice of progress when it comes to the advancement and enhancement of organ donation procedures. Its impact seems just as significant when considering the ways in which it can help change the availability of blood for transfusions.

“We see pieces of news every day related to shortages of blood everywhere,” Coleman says. “It’s a chronic problem. And although we’re not able to create more blood with our technology, we’re able to convert A type blood—the second most abundant blood type—to O type blood, which is the blood type that is most chronically in short supply in relation to the number of people in need of it.”

Seeking investment

Coleman explains that the company is currently undertaking a series A financing, going out to the market actively looking for investments into the technology. He says that they are generating a considerable amount of interest from a number of different parties. In fact, John Barclay, Avivo Biomedical’s CoFounder and Vice-President of Business Development, suggests that interest is coming from a range of different groups, highlighting the significance and importance of the work that the company has been to this point.

“Our technology’s being greeted with enthusiasm by the transplant community, as well as surgeons and physicians of a number of different stripes,” he says. “They’re obviously really interested in the ways our technology can help support and improve what they do. There are also a number of potential corporate partners who are excited by what we’re doing, in addition to patient advocacy groups, like the National Kidney Foundation in the U.S., who are also keenly interested in the potential our technology promises.”

The power of technology

In order to arrive at discoveries and medical breakthroughs of this magnitude, Coleman says that, in addition to incredible human brainpower, technology and its evolution is critical. He says that the ways in which technological advancement has helped to support the company’s tremendous research, trial and study is incalculable. And, he suggests that the capabilities presented by technology are showing up even faster as we move further into the future.

“Going back to the work that researchers had done around the metagenomic analysis of the microbiome, there are millions, if not billions, of different bacteria in the gut microflora,” he says. “They were able to use these incredibly sophisticated genomic technologies in order to tease that apart and identify the specific bacteria that are producing these enzymes. And then, once they were identified, they were able to get the DNA from those enzymes, get them into a production system and transposed into E. coli. These are technologies and resulting abilities that a decade ago would have been unthinkable. But today it’s almost becoming routine. The genesis of our company is really based on these technologies and those who have come before, pushing them forward.”

The revolution is coming

Given the fact that the company is still at the preclinical stage of development of its technology, there is still some work to do in order for Avivo Biomedical to realize the full potential of its breakthrough and the meaningful ways in which it can help to transform blood transfusion and organ transplant procedures. However, as Coleman points out, it seems to be on the verge, with plans to be in human clinical trials soon, followed of course by the technology’s resulting revolution.

“Within the next three years, we should be in the position in which we’ve completed in human clinical trial organ transplants. We’re working diligently right now to raise the capital that will allow us to manufacture the enzymes needed to complete our preclinical requirements to enter the clinic. So, we’re really approaching the proof-of-concept phase of development when it comes to organ transplants. And, on the blood side, we continue to work with our academic founders to continue moving this project along in order to prepare it for future studies and use. We’re all extremely excited to be in this position, and are really looking forward to experiencing the ways in which our work helps to positively change the way organ transplants and blood transfusions are administered going forward, resulting in tremendous outcomes for patients and their healthcare practitioners all over the world.”

Avivo’s technology, which can convert whole human blood and organs from Type A to Type O, represents a massive breakthrough
BIOLABMAG.COM 11 FEATURE STORY

In Prince Edward Island, researchers are using machine learning and advanced sensor technologies to improve crop productivity and reduce agricultural waste—all with the goal of helping farmers and fighting climate change

Asthe cost of fertilizer skyrockets and warnings of drought and famine continue to sound, the agricultural industry looks for new ways to squeeze greater productivity from fewer inputs, all while minimizing agriculture’s drag on the environment.

It seems like an impossible task, but farmers and agricultural engineers are finding new uses for off-theshelf technologies and deploying custom technologies and machine learning to optimize the farmer’s shrinking resources, reduce waste and chemical pollution caused through farming, and maximize crop yields in creative ways.

One of the people connecting technology to agriculture is Dr. Farooque, an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Climate Change and Adaptation at the University of Prince Edward Island.

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Raised on a farm in Pakistan, Farooque watched his father farm three crops a year of beet, sugarcane, rice, soybean, and the occasional quick corn. It was his experience on the farm that sparked an interest in technological interventions into agriculture.

He completed an MSc and PhD at Dalhousie before joining UPEI in 2015. His graduate research focused on blueberries. When he settled in P.E.I., he switched to studying potatoes.

“That was a natural fit,” he says.

Today, the agricultural engineer receives significant funding from provincial and federal sources to develop, test, and evaluate technologies to help farmers deal with variability in crop characteristics, soil, yield, weather, geography, topography, and more.

It’s work that he says helps farmers “to optimize operations, to be efficient, and to develop the new operations and systems which save the inputs and resources and, at the same time, protect the environment.”

All the technology

Farooque accomplishes this work by networking a range of technologies to show farmers what’s happening under the farm’s surface. Many of these technologies, like drones, are off-the-shelf tech.

Farooque uses drones to take images that capture the crop growth parameters. These images show erosion paths and potential paths that snow meltoff might take in the spring. After the spring, researchers can collect soil samples from those areas and see how much of the topsoil was lost. That information feeds into the prediction models to help farmers know where and how to seed fields. The drones also image the crops to investigate its overall health. Is the crop green enough, is it yellow, is it water stressed?

Ultrasonic sensors deliver researchers another important data point. When mounted on a harvester boom or on a sprayer boom, ultrasonic sensors allow researchers to map the height of plants. As the height of the plant varies, so does the root zone. If the fruit is on the top 10 cm of the plant, as it is with blueberries, farmers will need to adjust the harvester to avoid causing damage to the plant. These sensors automate a precision operation, complementing various others sensors and technologies that measure soil quality. Soil moisture sensors, for example, record the soil moisture continuously. If a farm goes seven days without rain, what is the moisture level? How will the moisture levels impact plant growth? Together, these sensors deliver granular detail that allow farmers to fine-tune adjustments to their operations.

Yet another complementary technology is the yield monitor. Yield monitors measure the yield of a crop and geo-reference it to produce a map showing the high-performing areas of the acreage. The farmers and researchers can then focus on the low-yield areas and find ways to improve the yield, and with greater precision than simply eyeballing a field and listening to intuition—which is important to newer farmers who may not have developed an eye and don’t trust their intuitions.

Farooque uses drones to take images |that capture the crop growth parameters. The drones also image the crops to investigate its overall health. Is the crop green enough, is it yellow, is it water stressed?

Machine vision, machine learning

Farooque and his team are developing prototype technologies to help farmers understand their land better. One of these prototypes is a machine vision product. This machine surveys crops and uses machine learning to characterize individual plants to determine whether it is weed, a diseased plant, or a healthy plant. When the machine identifies a weed, a message is sent to the solenoid valves that then open and spray herbicide on the targeted weed. If the machine identifies fungus, the sprayer shoots a fungicide on the offending mushroom.

The machine integrates with the deep learning and artificial intelligence programs Farooque has been developing. Each decision the machine makes adds to the machine’s experience.

“The systems not only measure, but they also act on decisions in the real time,” says Farooque.

BIOLABMAG.COM 13 FEATURE STORY

Off-the-shelf technology needs tweaking for Canadian topographies, and that’s what Farooque does. Conductivitybased sensors scan fields to measure the depth and strength of a soil. These work fine in Europe. But in P.E.I., where farmers deal with a different climate and topographies—P.E.I. potato farms are not flat—the sensors do not work easily, and so they are underused.

Over the past several years, Farooque has tested conductivity in the slopes in P.E.I., characterized and quantified the measurements, and evaluated the environmental benefit and crop productivity. Now there is significant acreage throughout the province that’s currently mapped with that technology.

“The technology was already commercially available, it just needed a bit of a tweak to make it work for us,” says Farooque.

Reducing waste

Combined, these technologies optimize resources, especially when it comes to fertilizers. Take the resource optimization available through variable rate seeding as an example. P.E.I. has an uneven surface, with hilltops and depressions that cause topsoil erosion. By gathering so much detail about individual portions of the acreage, farmers can seed differently. Rather than seeding uniformly across the field, they can space out seeds in areas where topsoil is thin and allow a smaller number of plants to thrive and produce more. They can ration fertilizer according to soil and crop needs, rather than blanketing the field with fertilizer, which in some areas of the field might be too much and in other areas too little. This informed change to seeding saves on seeds and it also reduces emissions. If you put less nitrogen into the field because you’ve planted fewer seeds, there will be fewer emissions, less phosphorus runoff in the water, and fewer fungicides and pesticides sprayed into the air.

“Yes, it’s going to cost you more labour, but at the end of the day, if it is profitable, and covers that expense for itself, and it’s good for your crop, it’s where you want to go,” says Farooque.

“Seeing is believing”

The adaptability of many of these technologies remains an issue. Like the adoption of any new technology, it will take time before adoption is widespread, unless or until academics like Farooque evaluate the technology and show the operational and financial benefits of investing in advancements.

And that’s one of the personal strengths people with farming backgrounds like Farooque brings to the ag-tech sector. Farmers are practical, by necessity.

“Farmers like to see the numbers,” says Farooque. “Seeing is believing. Once you can prove to them that this is going to be profitable for them, then they will jump on it.”

BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
FEATURE STORY 14

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LEADING IN THE LAB STARTS AT PITTCON.ORG

More effective COVID-19 drug treatments enabled through enhanced understanding of viral protein

In the ongoing fight against the disruptive virus, a breakthrough has been made through study and research

16 BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23

Aswe enter into year three of the COVID-19 pandemic era—a frame of time that has restricted social activities and blighted economic progress in communities all across the globe—studies being conducted with the help of the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan are enabling scientists to make meaningful breakthroughs.

Molecular biologist; Mark Paetzel, who conducts his research at Simon Fraser University, along with University of British Columbia structural biologist Natalie Strynadka, and colleagues Jaeyong Lee, Calem Kenward and Liam Worrall, have recently been studying a significant protein and its underlying structure and characteristics in order to determine the reasons that makes it such an attractive target for antiviral drugs.

Significant breakthrough

Like many RNA viruses, explains Paetzel, SARS-CoV-2 synthesizes a significant number of its proteins as one long polypeptide chain called a polyprotein. A critical step in the virus’s replication and assembly is the dicing of this polyprotein into the individual functional viral proteins. SARS-CoV-2 uses a protease called main protease (M Pro ) to essentially cut itself out of the polyprotein and to cut at nine other positions along the polyprotein. The intramolecular self-cleavage reaction of M Pro results in the protease having the specificity residues required for its self-cleavage at its own carboxy-terminus. He says that the work he and the team have conducted have revealed a number of important insights.

“Previously, we captured crystal structures of M Pro bound to the carboxy-terminus of neighbouring molecules within the crystal due to the high local effective concentration within the crystal,” he says. “This provided insights into how Mpro recognizes its own C-terminus and how it can chop its way out of the polyprotein by recognizing its carboxyterminal tail. In our latest work, we have used site-directed mutagenesis to change the Mpro carboxy-terminal tail to each of the polyprotein cut-site sequences. We have managed the capture of these cut-sites bound within the active site of Mpro. These structures have revealed how the Mpro active site structurally adapts to each polyprotein cleavage site.”

Disabling replication

In addition, Paetzel says that through the work and research conducted, he and his colleagues learned that the protein in question is remarkably adaptable, highlighted most significantly by the way in which it binds other target proteins inside of a pocket that opens and closes like a trap of sorts, enabling it to accommodate the wide variety of differently shaped proteins it has to bind with and cut. Through this discovery, it was revealed that by blocking the protein, the virus’ ability to replicate is disabled.

Enhanced drug treatments

As Paetzel points out, the work and study that’s been conducted thus far has yielded a number of revelations concerning the protein that has resulted in an enhanced understanding of its behaviour.

And, it’s an enhanced understanding that the molecular biologist believes will benefit COVID-19 drug treatments and their effectiveness going forward, allowing drug developers to design new treatments that can take advantage of the protein’s flexibility.

“Mpro is an important target for antiviral drugs,” he asserts. “By having more structural information on how Mpro recognizes all its polyprotein cut sites, medical chemists can design drugs that bind with greater specificity and affinity, and this may lead to a more effective drug with fewer side effects and drug resistance. Knowing all the different ways that the enzyme active site interacts with its cleavage sites will provide valuable insights for drug design.”

Applicable to other viruses

It’s important to note that the discovery made by Paetzel and his colleagues not only poses the potential to improve drug treatments related to the COVID-19 virus, but can be applicable to a number of other viruses as well. It’s a breakthrough that he acknowledges is a profound one, perhaps benefitting drug researchers and manufacturers, as well as healthcare workers, for some time to come.

“This in crystallo high-local effective concentration strategy for producing structures of viral protease complexes with their cleavage sites is applicable to any virus that produces its gene products as a polyprotein,” he explains.

The power of the Canadian Light Source

In order to execute the work and study that enabled this breakthrough, Paetzel and his colleagues leveraged the powerful X-rays of the CMCF-BM beamline at the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan. Paetzel describes the technologies available at the facility as “vital” toward achieving the study’s results and in gaining their enhanced understanding of the protein and its behaviour. Most significantly, he explains, it enabled the research team to conduct the screening of the more than 500 protein crystals that was required in order to find the ones they were looking for.

“Access to the CMCF-BM beamline at CLS was critical to the success of this project,” he says. “We had to screen many crystals to find those that had the cleavage-site bound within the active-site. The intensity and resolution of the X-rays and the speed of the data collection available at CLS made this project possible, enabling us to more efficiently analyze the many crystals needed to capture these complexes.”

BIOLABMAG.COM 17
NEWSMAKER

BRIL working toward a bio-renewable future

The search for cleaner energy is ending up in the waste

BRIL’s work is led by Animesh
of
University of
18 LAB PROFILE BIOLAB BUSINESS VO LUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
Dutta, Professor
Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering,
Guelph and Omid Norouzi, Research and Development Specialist, Anaergia inc.

Inthe search to discover or develop anything new, pioneers are often required—people who will turn over new stones, ask the unasked questions and venture into the unknown. One of the pioneers within the Canadian bio-renewable space is Dr. Animesh Dutta, current Director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL), a multidisciplinary research facility with the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph. Founded in 2014, the laboratory conducts the majority of its research on valorization of various organic wastes to promote sustainability through the concept of the circular economy. The lab has already been recognized through its development of thermochemical conversions of macromolecules present in organic waste resources to energy and value-added materials. And, by virtue of its focus on leveraging a range of clean and sustainable-renewable energy technologies, it aims to develop a wide variety of bioproducts, including biochemicals, bio-carbon (which poses the potential to be a replacement for coal) bio-oil (which could present as a substitute for petroleum) and

syngas, from bioresources through green thermo-chemical and bio-chemical processes.

Environmentally friendly processes

Dutta explains that the entire goal of the laboratory and everyone who conducts work and research within it is to help reduce the negative impact that energy consumption has on the planet through the development of more environmentally friendly processes while also allowing for the generation of revenue for the farmer, processor, or anyone else.

“We conduct all of our research and work with an advanced biorefinery approach,” he says. “It’s unique in that it allows us to target the recovery of value from every co-product of biomass conversion, supporting our efforts to sustainable solutions for a more sustainable tomorrow. To do this, to achieve the goal of greater, long-term sustainability and a cleaner, healthier planet, the development of innovative technological solutions is required and a determination to develop cleaner sources of energy.”

BIOLABMAG.COM 19 LAB PROFILE

We conduct all of our research and work with an advanced biorefinery approach,” he says. “It’s unique in that it allows us to target the recovery of value from every co-product of biomass conversion, supporting our efforts to sustainable solutions for a more sustainable tomorrow.

To do this, to achieve the goal of greater, longterm sustainability and a cleaner, healthier planet, the development of innovative technological solutions is required and a determination to develop cleaner sources of energy.

20 LAB PROFILE BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23

A robust laboratory

The laboratory boasts a number of different facilities that support the work and research conducted at BRIL, including those for sample storage, dry storage, desiccation, refrigerated storage, frozen samples, sample processing preparation, bench top characterization, spectroscopy, chromatography, and integrated process and analytical systems. It’s a robust environment that houses a treasure trove of technologies and equipment as well, including a mass spectrometer for gas chromatography, a total organic carbon analyzer, an ultraviolet visible spectrometer, an atomic force microscope, a hydrothermal reactor, a hydrothermal continuous reactor, a CHNS-O analyzer, as well as a host of other cutting-edge tools.

Support funding

Since founding the laboratory nearly 10 years ago, Dutta has managed to secure nearly 30 different rounds of funding to support the work that he and his colleagues are conducting, including funds received from NSERC Discovery, NSERC Engage, the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation, the Government of Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Biomass Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to name a few. It’s funding that Dutta recognizes as crucial in helping the laboratory function as it does, adding that it’s reflective of the importance of the objectives that it’s attempting to achieve.

“We’ve certainly received quite a bit of generous funding for the work that we do,” he admits. “But it definitely speaks to the critical need for the energy solutions that we’re trying to develop. And, the fact that it’s arrived from so many sources, including government agencies and scientific councils, all in an effort to support the search for cleaner sources of energy, is evidence concerning the level of importance of this type of work and research. The planet is in need of solutions to help reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier planet. It’s a mandate at the provincial and federal levels, as well as being a global issue. Everyone is striving to make these improvements, and the laboratory is seen as a key contributor in the search for cleaner fuels.”

A sustainable future

When discussing his laboratory, Dutta is excited, speaking with passion concerning the endless possibilities that his research helps to unravel, and the opportunities it uncovers. He beams with pride when citing some of the exciting projects that he and his colleagues are currently working on, and those that are still being conceptualized. However, when looking ahead, the University of Guelph Director shares that he has even bigger plans for BRIL, with a focus on expanding the laboratory and its function further to include a showroom of sorts where the innovative, state-of-the-art technologies, techniques and processes that have been developed can be

marketed, if you will—an approach that Dutta says will add a significantly important layer to his already impressive set-up.

“My hope for the work that we continue to do is to enable it even further by developing a pilot or demonstration facility. Bringing this kind of laboratory work through to application in the way of a demonstration phase will allow people to actually see the technology and techniques in action and really start to believe in it. It’s a very powerful form of experience-based learning that can’t help but resonate with people. I’m hoping for this to happen within the next three to five years in order to showcase and highlight all of the amazing things that we’re doing to industries to entice them to begin leveraging the solutions that we’re providing. In the end, however, it’s about creating a better tomorrow through a circular economy approach and the right innovations and technological solutions in order to arrive at long-term sustainability for the planet. And I want to make sure that the laboratory continues to meet this mandate for many more years to come.”

BIOLABMAG.COM 21 LAB PROFILE

REVOLUTIONIZING TRACEABILITY WITH NATURE’S DNA

Innovative identifying tagging technology allows producers and manufacturers to securely link product to its supply chain data

COMPANY
22 BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
PROFILE

Therehave been some obvious and high-profile disruptions and disturbances to the global supply chain of late. Impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in port closures and congestion, lost containers of inventory and product, and shortages of supply all over the world, crippled supply chains everywhere, leading to intense discussions concerning the ways in which product should be moved around the globe. It also exposed many companies whose insights into their supply chains are significantly wanting, leaving them unable to properly track and trace their product or validate the authenticity of it or its guarantees. It’s a problem that poses producers and manufacturers with a potential loss of credibility and a general lack of control over their supply. And it’s one that BioTag—a unique traceability technology that leverages nature’s DNA to tag product—promises to quell.

Nature’s fingerprint

Developed by Burlington, ON-based Index Biosystems, the revolutionary technology replaces older, traditional traceability technologies that rely on packaging, leveraging microscopic fingerprints made from baker’s yeast that can be applied to just about any type of product. It’s a way by which the company has managed to securely connect the digital and physical worlds, enabling the identification and authentication of products and eliminating many of the challenges currently inherent within contemporary supply chains. And, according to David Singer, Co-Founder and VP of Sales the benefits of the technology and flexibility of its use are immense.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is creating barcodes out of baker’s yeast,” he explains. “Through a process that we refer to as inert bioengineering, we produce a unique identifying sequence of DNA to standard baker’s yeast in a way that ensures that we’re not introducing any traits or affecting the inheritable traits of the yeast itself. It’s bioengineering without any gene modification. And there is no limit to the number of unique identifiers that we can create. And because we’re using yeast as a carrier for the DNA signature, we can grow it like any other yeast product, so it’s immensely scalable. It allows us to apply a signature to products that we normally wouldn’t be able to, such as grains and romaine lettuce, to on dosage for pharmaceuticals and animal feed products. In addition, it’s incredibly versatile and allows us to trace product within supply chains, end-to-end, working independent of packaging.”

Optimized traceability

In addition, Singer goes on to explain that the tags also work independently of product aggregation as well, meaning that individual heads or leaves of lettuce, for instance, can be traced back to the field in which they were grown in order to identify whether they have been contaminated or sullied in any other way. And, this same benefit extends beyond identification to authenticate the safety of food. It can also be used to validate a brand’s sustainable claims and efforts.

COMPANY PROFILE BIOLABMAG.COM 23

“If a producer is employing certain sustainability practices on their farm and customers at the end of the supply chain want proof as to the sustainability of the product that they’re purchasing and consuming, our BioTag will allow for the labelling of grains on farm, follow them through the aggregation of an elevator, through to a mill and still be recoverable in the flour product that’s received by a company,” he says. “In this way, our technology enables brands to validate and measure the carbon footprint of their product without relying on assumptions or having to fully and completely segregate their supply chains.”

Three pillars

In fact, Singer points out that Index Biosystems, by its very nature, helps producers and manufacturers solve for three of the biggest challenges that they collectively face. It’s estimated that the value of the global grey market—the market in which fraudulent and counterfeit goods are bought and sold—is in excess of $1.5 trillion, with the transfer of counterfeit product amassing $500 billion in sales. And, the total annual cost of food fraud—food sold under misleading or false certifications or claims—is $40 billion, with 600 million people falling ill every year as a result of contaminated food. They are areas of the business and supply chain process that Singer says Index Biosystems specializes in helping producers and manufacturers modernize and optimize.

“They are definitely the three pillars that we focus on, and the areas where we think our technology presents the most benefits to the end user,” he says. “Our technology helps brands fend off the threat of counterfeiting, detecting fraudulent or counterfeit products and unauthorized sales. As mentioned, it also allows brands to verify the ethical and sustainable sourcing of their products and ingredients, and mitigates risks associated with health and safety as it relates to food.”

Connecting physical and digital

The number of products, industries and verticals that could benefit from Index Biosystem’s technology is extensive, including agrochemicals, animal feed, cannabis, commodities, energy, food, pharmaceuticals, seed, testing and certification, textiles, wine and spirit, and more. Singer goes on to explain that the innovation was borne out of a need to fill very distinct holes within blockchain in order to begin harnessing its full potential, presenting Index Biosystems with the opportunity to develop a means by which it could connect physical products with the digital world by

imbedding data related to those products, linking it all to their supply chains.

“The ‘aha’ moment was when we started to consider whether or not we could use biology to imbed data onto a product in order to meaningfully connect it to supply chain data,” he says. “That was the start of the ideation phase and we’ve essentially been experiencing positive momentum since then.”

How BioTag works

The direct result of Index Biosystems’ inert bioengineering approach—part of its proprietary process—each BioTag is made to be uniquely identifiable, much like a microscopic fingerprint. And, the process, from development of the BioTag through to use by producer or manufacturer, is straightforward and involves the following steps once it’s been created:

QUALITY CONTROL The successful creation of each BioTag is confirmed using standard molecular techniques. This quality control step is an added assurance that no genes have been modified, inserted or deleted through its inert bioengineering process, and ensures the safety of each uniquely identifiable BioTag.

REGISTER Once the safety of each BioTag sequence has been confirmed, it is added to Index Biosystems’ customer portal, Trailhead. This serves as the interface between a physical product that has been tagged, and its digital supply chain. Trailhead can be easily integrated with existing traceability software through a simple API to keep all product information in one place.

GROW AND INACTIVATE At this point, BioTags are ready for production. Standard yeast manufacturing allows for reliable BioTag production at a large scale. Each batch is killed to ensure inactivation prior to any commercial application, with the yeast cell providing a natural barrier that protects the identifying sequence inside. The powdered BioTags are now ready for shipment.

APPLY Unique BioTags can be applied directly to any product at any point or multiple points along the supply chain. They can be mixed with ingredients, sprayed onto products, or integrated directly into existing manufacturing processes. Only trace amounts of BioTag are required for reliable detection, so there is no impact to the taste, colour, or odour of products they are applied to.

COMPANY PROFILE 24 BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23

DETECT BioTag sequences can be detected onsite, or samples can be sent to Index or a third-party lab for authentication. Standard molecular techniques including PCR are used to detect BioTag sequences, with reliable detection significantly below parts-per-million. Sequence information can be cross-referenced with Trailhead for integrated verification at any point in the supply chain.

The digital age

The technology, in combination with Index Biosystems’ digital registry, is a complement to any contemporary supply chain, enhancing and elevating a number of different aspects across a brand’s operation. It increases dependability and, according to Singer, helps to propel many brands and their producer and manufacturer partners into the digital age.

“This is absolutely the most cutting-edge innovation and solution out there when it comes to supporting supply chain efficiency and transparency,” he says. “It’s also a way by which many brands, despite the product that they offer, can thrust themselves into a new way of doing things, digitizing their businesses and differentiating themselves from their competitors. In securing reliability and predictiveness for the brand, it also validates and authenticates everything that the end user wants validated and authenticated, often resulting in greater trust and loyalty from consumers who are increasingly looking for increased transparency into the origin and life of their products.”

BioTag benefits

In addition to the benefits received by the consumer in the way of authentication, and by the brand in the way of a clearer view into their supply chains, there are a number of other benefits to using BioTags.

SAFE Yeast is a commonly used ingredient within food and agricultural products, with a long history of safe use. Index’s proprietary design process ensures each BioTag is characteristically and nutritionally identical to standard baker’s yeast, and is inactivated to ensure the final product is incapable of any further growth. BioTags are edible and have been FDA approved for use in food.

SCALABLE Using nature’s code, DNA, allows for an unlimited number of unique BioTag sequences to be created. BioTags also benefit from the established global manufacturing processes that have been developed for yeast over several decades, which allows for the reliable production of BioTags at any scale.

SECURE The Trailhead digital registry provides a secure digital environment for sequence storage and reference, and is related to manufacturing and intended use information. Using a simple API, Trailhead can be securely integrated with existing traceability software.

CUSTOM BioTags can be added, mixed, sprayed or affixed in trace amounts to any product, allowing for seamless integration into existing production pipelines. By adding unique BioTags at multiple nodes along a supply chain, the chain of custody can be verified throughout a product’s journey. BioTags are customizable to match the strategic needs and operational realities of almost any supply chain use case.

DURABLE Using yeast provides incredible scalability to production and enables a natural durability to each BioTag, allowing for protection of the unique identifying sequence within. This durability has been proven along harsh supply chains, and allows for reliable detection and product authentication.

Tagging the future

With respect to current operations, Singer says that Index Biosystems is gaining a lot of traction and interest around its innovative BioTag solution, adding that its researchers and engineers are constantly working toward improving the product. And, he says, it’s all done with the end user in mind.

“We’re aware of the challenges that exist within today’s supply chain, and we also recognize the challenges that are inherent in securing and protecting the authenticity of product. Our BioTags offer users the broadest applications and simplest form of identification currently available, posing the potential to boost any supply chain operation and the credibility of the brands that use them.”

The technology, in combination with Index Biosystems’ digital registry, is a complement to any contemporary supply chain, enhancing and elevating a number of different aspects across a brand’s operation.
COMPANY PROFILE BIOLABMAG.COM 25
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Thedrain of using non-renewable energy sources like oil, coal and gas to power communities all over the world has clearly taken its toll on our planet and its environment. In search of alternate, renewable sources of energy, some have hypothesized that hydrogen could present a significant portion of the answer to the planet’s energy conundrum, given the fact that it can be produced from water. But its potential has been muted to date, limited by the current methods used to do so which are costly and inefficient. However, just recently, Marta Cerutti, Professor and Co-Director of the Institute for Advanced Materials at McGill University, uncovered a way by which the process could be made substantially more efficient.

BIOLABMAG.COM 27 APPLICATION NOTE
New discovery identifies novel method to produce hydrogen from seawater Scientists at McGill University uncover potential energy game-changer

Improved scaffold

Cerutti, who’s been working for a number of years with graphene as part of her research involving bone tissue engineering, was attempting to discover a way that would enable the creation of an “easy-to-handle” structure. Instead, what she found was the fact that, because of its characteristics, it could serve to aid in the process of creating hydrogen from seawater.

Graphene is a single sheet of carbon atoms that display unique properties, explains Cerutti, including its electrical conductivity and ability to support incredible amounts of weight. Working together with colleagues Gabriele Capilli and Thomas Szkopek, the team combined graphene with oxygen in a suspension with water to create reduced graphene oxide—an essentially porous, three-dimensional, electrically conductive scaffold—with graphene flakes stacked on the pore walls, creating a membrane that allows water through, without any other molecules entering. And, it was when considering environments in which to test the new and improved scaffold, and seawater electrolysis was suggested, that the team made the discovery.

“Graphene oxide is a very interesting material because you can work with it in a number of different ways,” says Cerutti. “Because sheets of graphene can be assembled at the walls of the pores, creating membranes inside the walls, it results in a filter of sorts that restricts the entry of competitor species into the pores. It prevents the poisoning of the catalyst, allowing only water molecules to enter the catalyst, facilitating the formation of oxygen, which is critical to have present when attempting to produce hydrogen from water.”

Restricting competitor species

In seawater, explains Cerutti, there are a range of different competitor species, including chloride ions that penetrate the electrode in traditional electrolysis, creating hypochlorite ions which interacts with and nullifies the catalyst. It’s actually the primary reason that explains the difficulty in producing hydrogen from seawater and why this discovery is such a significant one, with potentially far-reaching impacts.

“Energy producing companies would likely be those most interested in this discovery and technology,” she says. “Hydrogen would be an extremely clean form of energy and can be used to create the cleanest fuel possible, resulting in a relatively big breakthrough with respect to sustainability efforts currently happening around the world and attempts to find cleaner, renewable sources of energy and fuels that don’t harm the planet as much as the sources we use most predominantly today.”

Multiple applications

What’s more, the structure that’s been created using the graphene oxide can be used to house other catalysts as well, and used to have selective electro-oxidation or reduction of a number of other elements beyond water, including methanol electro-oxidation in a raw fuel mix, in addition to a number of other reactions that could benefit from the discovery.

To assist in the research that was necessary in making this discovery, Cerutti and her team leveraged the X-ray phase contrast imaging at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. Cerutti says that the CLS and its equipment was incredibly important in helping her and her team confirm the viability of the new graphene oxide structure, allowing them to consider the next steps for their discovery. However, as Cerutti points out, it’s simply a matter of figuring out how to scale the innovation at this point.

“The prototype has just been made in the lab,” says Cerutti. “We’ve made a structure that’s only a few millimetres in size. So, in order for this to be applicable, the construction of the structure needs to be scaled up. It’s feasible, because the method that we use to make the electrode leverages emulsion. Just like when mayonnaise is produced, there are ingredients—oil and lemon juice—that usually don’t stay together very well. However, because of the proteins in the egg whites, an emulsion is created. In our method, we put water and oil together, and because of the graphene oxide we’re able to create a stable emulsion in which oil droplets are surrounded by water. Then, you remove the oil and you remove the water and are left with an empty space: the pores. So, instead of creating a 1 cm 3 structure, we could make this at an industrial scale”.

Scaling the structure

Looking ahead, as Cerutti and her team continue to hypothesize the various potential uses and applications of the graphene oxide structure, they are already thinking about the testing that will be required in order to scale its production. In addition, she says that, as part of the testing, the mechanical properties of the structure will likely need to be changed and altered to evolve with its growth and ensure that the resilience and sound nature of the graphene oxide holds up at a larger size. And, with respect to its scaling, Cerutti says that she’s simply taking her research one step at a time.

“Once the discovery was announced, I received a lot of interest from a number of different companies, including some that make graphene. I think that we’d just need to find the right partner with the right people who align with our vision. If we’re approached by that company or organization, then I’ll be happy to consider the next steps in making this discovery more applicable at a larger and wider scale.”

BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
28 APPLICATION NOTE
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Erlab’s 50 years of expertise in research, design and manufacturing of filtered storage cabinets guarantee superior filtration to keep researchers protected when storing their chemicals. Distributed by Canadian Scientific Lab Systems, the Erlab Captair Smart ductless filtering storage cabinets provide a steady flow of air through the cabinet, capturing hazardous vapours in the filters and returning clean air back to the room. www.erlab.com

New technology boosts throughput for cryo-ET

Thermo Fisher Scientific recently unveiled its Thermo Scientific Arctis Cryo-Plasma Focused Ion Beam (CryoPFIB)—a new connected and automated microscope designed to advance the pace of cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) research. Cryo-ET makes it possible to study how proteins and other molecules operate together in a cellular context,

at resolutions unsurpassed by other microscopy techniques, and has enormous potential for cell biology research, including the study of infectious disease, neurodegenerative disease, and other globally impactful structural biology applications. The Arctis Cryo-PFIB offers advanced automation and new connectivity capabilities within the workflow, significantly increasing throughput for fast, reproducible production of samples for cryo-ET. www.thermofisher.com

Improvements to traditional mortar and pestle

The CryoGrinder System from OPS Diagnostics is a total solution for homogenizing, chilling and transporting small samples in-house. An improvement on the traditional mortar and pestle, the CryoGrinder tools retain the strength and durability of porcelain while adapting to the scale of molecular biology. The CryoGrinder mortar and pestle are specifically designed to grind small and difficult tissues (e.g., skin, sclera) at cryogenic temperatures. Their small design allows for grinding up to 100 mg of sample without excessive sample loss.

www.opsdiagnostics.com

Next-generation sequencing

Bio-Rad’s QX600 Droplet Digital PCR System offers advanced six-colour multiplexing and absolute quantification of nucleic acid. It allows clear discrimination of multiple targets with assays that are cross-compatible with the QX200 Droplet Digital PCR System. Ideal for applications such as gene and cell therapy or water testing, the system is designed for researchers who need to quantify multiple targets with high accuracy reproducibility. www.bio-rad.com

Cellular-enabled camera trap reaches almost anywhere in the world

The Reconyx HyperFire 2 camera is now 4G LTE cellular-enabled so that users can receive images on their Android or iOS from almost anywhere in the world. The Reconyx mobile app enables users to create a custom cellular plan, manage images and check status or change camera settings from anywhere. www.reconyx.com

LIST OF ADVERTISERS & WEBSITES

BioTalent page 2 biotalent.ca

Pittcon page 15 pittcon.org

CPDN page 26 cpdn.ca

Instrucan Scientific page 29 instrucanscientific.com

FCC page 34 fcc.ca/beveragereport

California Fig page 45 & 55 californiafigs.com

Ag-West page 51

............................................................................................................. agwest.sk.ca

BioTalent page 56 biotalent.ca/Co-OpFunds

Laboratory oven ideal for different applications

The Despatch LBB lab oven features a combination of horizontal and vertical airflow that offers excellent temperature uniformity. These ovens are recommended for a variety of laboratory applications including drying, curing, annealing, and materials and asphalt testing. The fan and heater are top-mounted to prevent damage from spills. Maximum temperature is 204°C (400ºF).

www.despatch.com

30 LAB WARE BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23

Vital innovations to enhance global food security

OVERCOMING FOODSERVICE CHALLENGES THROUGH SMART AUTOMATION

» The science of food and beverage ISSUE 3 • 2022-23

PUBLISHER & CEO Christopher J. Forbes cforbes@dvtail.com

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CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Marcia English, Associate Professor, St. Francis Xavier University

Michael Nickerson, Saskatchewan Research Chair and Professor, University of Saskatchewan Hosahalli Ramaswamy, Professor, McGill University

Amanda Wright, Association Professor, University of Guelph

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FOOD SHORTAGE AND REDUCING WASTE THROUGH INNOVATION

Consideringthe current state of human life on the planet, there are few challenges or issues posing as great a threat to our collective health and existence as food insecurity. A distinct lack of accessibility to healthy foods and ingredients in communities around the world, in combination with enormous amounts of wasted food, is exacerbating the increasingly critical nature of the situation.

In fact, according to most estimates, almost 60% of the food produced in Canada is wasted, representing the equivalent of 35.5 million tonnes, with 32% of it—or 11.2 million tonnes—edible and totalling $49.46 billion in recoverable waste. It’s a problem that requires solutions, and fast.

With this need in mind, in efforts to overcome this incredible challenge, innovators from across the country are working diligently to develop solutions and, where possible, encourage a renaissance of sorts to inspire new ways of doing things and a changed perspective concerning the potential of some of the latest techniques and technologies.

Within this issue of Canadian Food Business, we explore some of these innovators and the solutions that they’re presenting to enhance food security and the lives of people across the country and all over the world.

Focusing on the latest in the development of smart technologies and automated kitchens, we speak to cutting-edge company Gastronomous about the ways its innovative equipment can help improve efficiencies and find cost reductions for restaurateurs, while dramatically limiting the amount of food that’s wasted.

In addition, we go in depth concerning the ways in which some laboratories across the country are pushing the boundaries when it comes to the uses of organic waste, and their potential positive impacts with respect to the generation of renewable natural gas. We also take a look at the ways in which applied research and data can help to identify the causes and sources of food waste in restaurant kitchens, helping to reduce the waste and loss and improve operations.

Publisher of BioLab Business Magazine

Printed in Canada

It’s clear that the issue of food insecurity and food waste poses a significant threat to the health and sustainability of human life on our planet. And with the continuous innovation that’s occurring across the country and the world, it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before these challenges are once and for all addressed and overcome.

In 2022, the Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology (CIFST) and Canadian Food Business magazine launched a partnership to create a platform for leading experts, innovators and scientists to showcase the latest trends, knowledge and developments that are changing the face of Canada’s food industry today.

For further information, contact sbrowne@dvtail.com

ADDRESSING
EDITOR'S NOTE CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23 32
48 inside standard GUEST EDITORIAL 36 NEWS BITES 38 FOODWARE 52 feature INDUSTRY REPORT SIX POLICY PRIORITIES IDENTIFIED TO IMPROVE CLIMATE CHANGE AND STRENGTHEN GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS REDUCING FOOD LOSS AND WASTE AT BLOOM RESTAURANT Applied research explores ways to identify food waste and how to address it FEATURES OVERCOMING 42 FOODSERVICE CHALLENGES THROUGH SMART AUTOMATION State-of-the-art automated technology helping restaurants modernize their businesses and optimize operations THE POTENTIAL OF 46 RENEWABLE NATURAL GAS FROM CANADA’S FOOD AND ORGANIC WASTE Supporting Canada’s goal to net zero emission by 2050 CANADIANFOODBUSINESS.COM 33

2022 FCC Beverage Report:

Demand shifting from retail to service

The annual FCC Beverage Report highlights opportunities and risks for Canadian beverage manufacturers. It includes an annual sales forecast for 2022, product sales performance and a gross margin rate index.

Industries featured in the report are:

• Breweries

• Wineries

• Distilleries

• Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages

Dairy and fruit/vegetable-based beverages are covered in our food report under the dairy and fruit and vegetable manufacturing industry sections.

The pandemic shifted consumer purchases from food service to retail, limiting a revenue stream with usually strong margins for most beverage manufacturers. In 2021, consumers started to shift their purchases back to the service industry; however, lingering restrictions and higher production costs reduced profitability.

Three key observations from this year’s report:

1. Beverage manufacturing sales increased in 2021

Increased foodservice volumes and continued retail growth boosted total sales 11.3% YoY to $14.5 billion in 2021 (Table 1).

Beverage manufacturing sales are projected to decrease 1.0% in 2022, driven by:

• Broad inflation shifting consumers’ choices

• Elevated wholesale/retail inventory levels limiting downstream sales

• Shift towards service-based sales where consumers tend to drink fewer alcoholic beverages than at home

FCC Economics expects sales declines coming from larger alcoholic businesses focused on retail, with smaller operations (who represent a minority of total revenues) benefiting from growth in the service industry and a return to selling direct to consumers. Companies with a diversified portfolio of beverages catering to different audiences will outperform (for example, beer and seltzer, caffeinated and non-caffeinated).

2021 (millions $) YoY % change 2020 (millions $) YoY % change Beverage manufacturing sales 14,555 11.3 13,080 3.0 Beverage exports 1,458 3.8 1,405 2.1 Beverage imports 6,157 3.6 5,945 1.2 Beer, wine and liquor retail sales 26,445 2.5 25,800 6.6 Bar sales 1,554 12.7 1,379 -44.2 Total estimated alcoholic retailfocused sales 27,999 3.0 27,179 1.9
Table 1: Manufacturing sales and exports grew in 2021 YoY Source: Statistics Canada

2. Industry gross margins expected to improve

Supply-chain disruptions lowered the availability of key packaging and raw inputs, driving up costs. Despite growing topline sales, gross margins struggled to regain 2019 levels (Figure 1). Strong competition in the alcoholic beverage sector makes it difficult to pass on higher costs, resulting in beverage inflation lagging food inflation.

We expect margins to improve in 2022 as consumers are willing to pay higher prices for beverages, assuming costs don’t continue to rise. Bar, taproom, wine tasting rooms and restaurant sales are also often at a higher margin than retail. Non-alcoholic companies successfully pass on cost increases with little impact on volumes year-to-date and overall supporting margins.

consecutive years. Canadian breweries have taken market share from internationally produced beer over that timeframe, although their volume has also declined, just at a smaller rate. Overall, beer’s market share compared to wines and liquor fell by two percentage points to 36%. Gains in distilled beverages came from growing demand for hard seltzers, which many breweries are shifting focus towards to offset declines in market opportunities for beer.

3. Beer remains the number one alcoholic choice among Canadians but also faces pressure

Beer sales at the retail level for the 2020-21 year declined 1.4%, with total litres sold falling 2.3%. Total beer volumes have now declined for five

Source: Statistics Canada (Apr 2020 – Mar 2021)

*Performance does not line up with calendar manufacturing sales due to timing and inventory levels at wholesale and retail stores.

The bottom line

Low retail inflation relative to rising input costs is a trend to monitor. Look for data-driven ways to boost margins, manage inventory, product mix and pricing strategies. Find ways to maintain or grow market share by connecting with Canadian consumers, through tourism or capitalizing on their desire for niche and “locally produced.” The alcoholic beverage market is competitive; however, product innovations, including seltzers, pre-mixed drinks, non-alcoholic drinks and other beverages, are supporting growth.

Read the full report at fcc.ca/BeverageReport

Beverage type Total beverage market share % YoY % change Beer 36.0 -2.0 Wine 33.8 -0.6 Distilled liquor 30.2 2.7
Table 2: Beer lost retail market share in Canada in the 2020-21 marketing year
99.4 2018 100.0 2019 94.2 2020 97.4 2021 102 100 98 96 94 92 90
Figure 1: 2021 beverage gross margin rates remained below pre-pandemic levels
Source: Statistics Canada, FCC Economics

Double Benefit

Innovative Canadian Companies are Impacting our Economy and Food Security in Positive Ways

Whenyou hear the term "global food security", it’s easy to feel helpless and imagine that this is a topic for world politicians to tackle, and not a place where food and beverage industry leaders can be change agents. But the truth is that food security is an issue facing every community in Canada, and Canadian companies can have a significant local and national impact. And sometimes our efforts can even lead to global improvements.

Complexities of food insecurity

Solving food insecurity is a much more complex issue than simply producing more food. On a recent episode of the CBC radio show Spark, Dr. Evan Fraser from the University of Guelph said that today we produce enough calories to feed all eight billion people on the planet. Unfortunately, those calories are not necessarily in the right place at the right time, or of the quality that we need to ensure a healthy global population. “We don’t produce anywhere near enough fruits and vegetables for us all to eat a healthy diet,” he noted. “I think if we all ate the Canadian Food Guide, like globally, the world would run out of fruits and vegetables by March — and then we would have none for the rest of the year.”

While stories like this one and nightly news headlines can be disheartening, I’m fortunate to have a front row seat to the future of food innovation, and I can tell you that Canadian innovators are creating new technologies and services that are part of the long-term food security solution.

Supporting positive impacts

The Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) is a notfor-profit organization accelerating innovation in the food and beverage industry through connections, collaborations and investments across Canada’s food ecosystem. CFIN has a unique opportunity to identify emerging innovation in the food sector through information shared by our Innovation Advisory Council and our more than 2,000 members. We use this insight to create funding programs and services that help food businesses and their partners bring innovative ideas to market, with an emphasis on smart product and process development and sustainable food supply chains. Since 2021, CFIN has worked with many companies whose efforts today will have a positive impact on food security in the future.

GUEST EDITORIAL
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23 36

The good news is that Canadian agricultural researchers are addressing this issue by developing hardier crops that are more resistant to weather extremes such as drought or high heat. At the same time, many Canadian nutrition and food researchers are working to offer healthier, more nutrientdense products that provide a better overall nutrition profile, and to optimize the way foods are formulated so that our bodies process and absorb as many nutrients as possible. For example, the Institut sur la nutrition et les aliment (INAF) at the Université Laval is studying how the gut microbiome works and improving the absorption of nutrients so that the calories we take in deliver maximum impact.

CFIN members are using such knowledge and their entrepreneurial initiative in exciting ways. Food waste is a problem in many wealthy societies where we squander not just food but resources that could have been used to invest in helping other countries to feed their populations. According to Waste Reduction Week Canada, an astonishing 58% of food is lost in Canada each year. Imagine if we could recapture that $49 billion of value and redirect it to solving hunger caused by poverty, political upheaval and natural disaster.

less waste. Also working to boost the shelf life of produce is Saint-Hubert, QC-based flavour designers Foodarom. The company is developing a solution composed of natural ingredients with antimicrobial properties to eliminate multi-resistant fungal contaminants that are often found in concentrated fruit syrups and purées. Success will allow these highly nutritious seasonal foods to be more widely available for more months of the year.

AI-driven nutrition

Then there is Calgary-based Nutrimeals, a company working to make meals more nutritious. This meal prep company that delivers fresh and healthy pre-made meals across Alberta, leverages artificial intelligence to provide ready-to-eat meals that are customized to each customer’s dietary needs. And by digitizing their ecommerce platform and logistics model, Nutrimeals will be able to seamlessly deliver hyperlocalized bespoke meals that satisfy very specific nutrition needs so that every calorie counts.

Tracing technology

Another inspiring CFIN member is Toronto’s Index Biosystems which is testing BioTags, unique microscopic barcodes that are water- and heat-resistant and that can be safely sprayed on crops. From field to market, BioTags can be scanned using DNA barcoding to trace the product back to its point of origin. When widely used, this technology will reduce the waste of products that are currently discarded when foodborne disease outbreaks occur. Consider historic recalls of romaine lettuce, for instance. Using BioTags consistently would mean that contaminated lettuce leaves could be traced back to the exact field in which they were grown and pulled from stores selectively, leaving the safe lettuce intact and available for purchase on store shelves.

The right direction

Upcycling waste

BioTrim, a mobile on-farm system created by Burnaby, BC-based Trendi Tech Inc., uses robotics and automation to upcycle fruit and vegetable waste at the farm and food processor level to create nutrient-dense, shelf-stable powders that can be used for many applications. From a food security point of view, products developed with these powders can be used in standalone vending-style machines that can provide hot, nutritious soup or filling fruit smoothies in schools, shelters and other places where cooking and storage resources are scarce.

Extending shelf life

Other CFIN members tackling this problem from both a health and food preservation standpoint include Innodal, a Longueil, QC-based company using fermentation to create clean label ingredients that extend shelf life and prevent the growth of bacteria on meat, resulting in less illness and

Resolving global food insecurity is not a simple issue, but these technology-based innovations offering real-life food waste and nutritional solutions are a step in the right direction. As these and other innovations reach the market in coming years, CFIN will continue to support Canadian companies making a difference in the fight against food insecurity through funding programs and by connecting them with the people, processes and resources they require.

GUEST EDITORIAL
“We don’t produce anywhere near enough fruits and vegetables for us all to eat a healthy diet,” Dr. Evan Fraser noted. “I think if we all ate the Canadian Food Guide, like globally, the world would run out of fruits and vegetables by March—and then we would have none for the rest of the year.”
Dana McCauley is chief experience officer for CFIN. Contact her at dana@cfin-rcia.ca.
CANADIANFOODBUSINESS.COM 37

Six foodtech projects receive CFIN funding

The Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) recently announced an investment of $530,000 in six unique foodtech projects valued at $1 million.

“These six projects are prime examples of the breadth of exciting food innovation that’s happening here in Canada,” says CFIN CEO Joseph Lake. “CFIN is extremely excited to fund homegrown, innovative solutions that have the potential to reduce emissions, increase domestic production, and establish Canada as a global leader in new and emerging food sectors.”

Bolton, ON-based Plan Automation received part of the funding to pilot the world’s first fully automated reclamation technology that can detect and reclaim foreign matter from packaged food and beverage products. Suppli, a Torontobased provider of reusable packaging, is piloting technology to deliver real-time data and help streamline the management of reusable food packaging. Forward Water Technologies in Toronto is developing a new food-safe line of equipment for cold concentration of foodstuffs. Radish Cooperative in Montreal is working on a lightweight digital twin system to enable restaurants to easily monitor and predict their inventory stores. Cascadia Seaweed from Sidney, BC, is seeking to extend the shelf-life of fresh seaweed and boost processes. And Escarpment Laboratories in Guelph, ON, is hoping to introduce Canada’s first commercial Tempeh and Koji cultures.

Social media messaging is contrary to healthy eating

New research funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation shows there are millions of posts on social media about unhealthy food and beverages each year. These conversations about fast food restaurants, sugary drinks, candy, chocolate and snacks are not only driven by food and beverage brands but by individual Canadians, representing a newer form of marketing called user-generated content (UGC). Younger people are vulnerable to UGC because of their increased trust and familiarity of people within their social networks. It is as effective as company advertising, which is cause for concern.

“Canadians are being fed millions and millions of social media posts promoting unhealthy food and beverages each year, and this includes children and youth who we know spend an immense amount of time online,” says Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, associate professor at the University of Ottawa and author of the study. “All of this online chatter is just another form of marketing, which influences the foods kids eat, which in turn can severely impact their health.”

NEWS BITES
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23 38

New Canadian allergen management guidelines released

Food Allergy Canada has released its Allergen Management Guidelines for Food Manufacturers. The organization worked with Université Laval and food manufacturers to develop the guidelines. The Safe Food for Canadians Act calls for preventive control measures to be in place throughout the food and beverage manufacturing process. The guide provides a framework for allergen control planning and facility assessment, and offers recommendations on the use of precautionary allergen labelling. The guidelines and related resources, including online training and user guides, can be downloaded from Food Allergy Canada at foodallergycanada.ca/AllergenGuidelines.

Rabba is going green

Toronto-based specialty grocer Rabba Fine Foods has teamed up with Green Integrations and Star Energy Solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of its distribution centres, which house grocery, refrigerated, dairy and frozen goods, as well as specialty items. A total of 2,585 solar panels will be installed, generating more than 1.5 million kWh of electricity annually and lessening the company’s reliance on the provincial electricity grid. The company hopes to reduce its carbon dioxide output by 822 tonnes, the equivalent of planting 362,000 trees. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Two East Coast brands reimagine pizza crust

Atlantic Canada’s Greco Pizza chain has partnered with Waterville, NB-based Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company, to reinvent the pizza crust. In a new mashup, the Storm Chips Pizza comes encrusted at the outer edge with potato chips available in Storm Chip, creamy dill, ketchup, BBQ, and sea salt & vinegar. Covered Bridge worked closely with Greco Pizza to ensure the kettle chips retained their crunch and complemented the pizza flavour.

NEWS BITES
CANADIANFOODBUSINESS.COM 39

Six policy priorities identified to improve climate change and strengthen global food systems

It’sno secret to anyone with even a peripheral understanding of the state of the world’s environment that there’s grave concern about the health and future of the planet. However, the degree to which these concerns are resonating among experts may not quite be as clear. In fact, in 2021, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described the climate change crisis as “code red for humanity”, and one that requires urgent action lest the world’s food systems will continue to be impacted, dramatically more so as we move forward.

In response to the crisis, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in concerted efforts with the Alliance of Bioversity and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the International Water Management Institute and other partners, recently released the IFPRI’s 2022 Global Food Policy Report, identifying six policies that researchers say need to be implemented around the globe immediately in order to begin addressing the increasingly complex challenge of climate change and its impact on food systems.

And, although the health and viability of food systems are directly linked to climate change, much more so in developing countries, resulting in reductions in agricultural

productivity, disrupted supply chains, increased hunger and malnutrition, they are also often contributors to the problem. In fact, most recent estimates indicate that food systems contribute more than a third of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions causing climate change. It’s a doubleedged scenario that’s resulted in the topic of food systems being placed under a microscope of sorts and at the centre of discussions concerning the impacts of climate change and the solutions that can potentially help to alleviate the associated problems.

As a result, many within the global food industry have expressed their concerns, pointing to transformational requirements that are necessary in order to lessen and improve the impact of food systems on climate change. The transformations that are being called for will need to be supported, facilitated and governed by the introduction of major policy reform, substantial financial investment, and an approach that embraces and encourages innovation.

In an effort to advance the work and thinking required to achieve a more efficient food supply around the world and lessen the negative contribution toward the exacerbation of climate change, the Global Food Policy Repor t identifies the following six policy priorities:

INDUSTRY REPORT
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23 40

1. Research, development and innovation investment

Given the recent acceleration of digital technologies and the capabilities that are inherent within them, it’s no surprise that the report identifies investment in research and development and technological innovation as one of the foremost policy recommendations. A number of recent innovations, including solar-powered irrigation pumps and cold storage, genome editing advancements and the digitization of many points along the value chain have demonstrated incredible promise when it comes to their ability to help increase productivity and efficiency while also reducing related emissions. The report describes the results of the use of current technological capabilities as a “win-win opportunity in the fight against both hunger and climate change”, suggesting that more significant incentives are required to elicit greater adoption of these technologies by producers around the world.

2. Improved resource governance

In order to properly and responsibly transform global food systems, however, the report suggests that mechanisms need to be put in place in order to manage the close links between water, energy, land use and the use of global resources. And, it says, to adequately increase sustainable resource management, an integrated landscape management approach must be taken, whereby long-term collaborations between a number of differentand,attimes,disparategroups,includinglandmanagers and stakeholders, are formed to ensure optimized outcomes and positive progress related to their efforts.

As a result of the complexities involved in integrated landscape management projects, the report underscores the importance of governance that’s arrived at through thoughtful and deliberate means. And, given the potential that integrated landscape management poses toward the improvement of food systems, it’s proposed that policymakers incentivize the approach, motivating stakeholders to invest in sustainability and participate in resource governance, promoting the use of clean energy sources, the restoration of soil quality, the strengthening of land tenure rights and the ensuring of equitable access to water and other natural resources.

3. Healthier, more sustainable production

It’s estimated that more 3 billion people across the globe—the equivalent of approximately 40% of the world’s population— are unable to afford a diet of adequate nutritional value, lending toward malnutrition and a threat to global health. In light of this, the report recommends greater focus be paid toward establishing and ensuring greater access to healthier and more affordable foods to complement a healthy diet. In order to support the increase in dietary health, it’s also suggested that countries throughout the world develop, implement and promote national guidelines that direct and instruct people with respect to healthier choices. In addition, research and development related to identifying nutrient-rich foods and ways in which labeling, certifications and standards

highlighting the nutritional and sustainable features might entice greater adoption of these foods among the general public.

4. Enhancement of value chains

The report notes that climate change is invariably affected by the “entire food value chain, from production and harvesting, to processing and transportation, to marketing and consumption.” Because of this, mass improvements are required in order to lessen the negative impacts of the food supply on the environment. The report cites increased investment in climate-friendly processes and practices that pose the potential to reduce emissions and cost while also serving to prevent food loss and waste. By combining strong policy with increased investment in climate-smart solution advancements, the IFPRI suggests that meaningful momentum can be built toward decreasing the environmental harm caused by the global food system value chain.

5. Inclusion and social protection

To effectively influence change among a population, it’s imperative that everyone is involved in the process of transformation and adaptation. However, all too often, many within societies all over the world are marginalized from the conversations and execution of the change. It results in a discontented, ineffective and underserved proportion of the population that is limited when it comes to their capacity to participate and benefit from progress. In order to alleviate this obstacle to positive change, the report recommends the institution of more dedicated social protection services in countries around the world, services that include policies and programs meant to educate and inform, thereby reducing poverty and increasing social inclusion and the participation in positive climate-friendly and sustainable practices.

6. Climate-smart finance

In order to meet the aforementioned goals and make the adjustments to the global food supply that would be necessary, some estimate that the cost could reach somewhere in the region of US $350 billion, per year. It’s an astronomical amount of funding that simply doesn’t currently exist. Therefore, the report suggests that by repurposing much of the government funding that’s disbursed today, directing it toward agricultural sectors, research and development related to green innovations, incentivization and investment resources for farmers to help support their adoption of innovations will result in significant change.

A more sustainable future?

Referring to the recommendations included within the Global Food Policy Report, there seems to be a number of shifts that will be required in order to create a more sustainable global food supply. However, the Institute believes that, despite the adversity that we collectively face in overcoming these challenges, there is hope yet, stating that “Climate goals are still attainable, but only if we start acting now and if we act together.”

INDUSTRY REPORT
CANADIANFOODBUSINESS.COM 41

Overcoming foodservice challenges through smart automation

State-of-the-art automated technology helping restaurants modernize their businesses and optimize operations

Thefoodservice industry in Canada is one that is familiar with challenge and adversity. Traditionally, many of the challenges that are faced by those operating within the sector come and go, like the current labour crisis and disruptions to the supply chain, for instance. It’s not to suggest that their impacts can be easily dismissed. But purveyors can often wait out these types of strains on the business, making adjustments for short-term compensation. One challenge that’s perennial to the industry, however, and which can’t be adjusted for, is that of food waste. In many cases, it’s the scourge of the foodservice sector, blighting the efforts of many to optimize their operations and increase revenue. In order to address these challenges, offering a means by which to help overcome them, and so many more, automated technology innovator Gastronomous has created a range of solutions, from smart appliances to fully autonomous kitchens. And, according to

the company’s Co-Founder and COO, Kristian Tazbazian, they’re solutions that are going to revolutionize foodservice and the ways in which the sector operates.

“Our main clientele and focus is the quick service restaurant sector,” he explains. “If you look at the industry, those operating within it are pleading for solutions and new innovation that can help them deal with their challenges. The solutions available to them today just aren’t good enough and are, in fact, holding many behind, limiting their progress and evolution. Times are changing. Economics are changing. Consumers are changing. Yet the equipment, facilities and ways that restaurants operate have not adapted to these modern times. As a result, there are a number of challenges that they aren’t currently meeting, restricting them from realizing the full potential of their business. We’re here to provide restaurants with the kitchen equipment that they

FEATURE
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23 42
Gastronomous' smart automated technology set to revolutionize the foodservice industry.

currently use, including grills, fryers, fridges, dispensers, and so on, with advanced automation technologies and techniques that can help increase efficiencies, reduce food waste, and enhance reliability and productivity.”

Overcoming kitchen challenges

Tazbazian, along with fellow Co-Founders Kevork Sevadjian, CEO, and Andrew Skrepnek, CIO, all bring years of experience working within the automotive industry where they helped design and manufacture, among other things, automated passive safety components for vehicles, including air-bag inflators and seatbelt pretensioners. With their roots in advanced automation, Tazbazian says that the trio possess a firm understanding of the ways in which these types of technologies and techniques can be applied to a number of different products and environments. And, when looking to shift gears, so to speak, and leave the automotive industry in search of another sector in which to apply their knowledge and expertise, the group identified the foodservice industry as one in need of modernization in order to overcome many of the challenges its operators face.

“Over the past few decades, most industries, including manufacturing, mining and agriculture, have evolved,” he says. “And, they’ve managed to advance and evolve through the adoption and use of smart technologies and automation. The question we asked ourselves was: why had these types of technologies not yet been leveraged at the brick-and-mortar level with respect to innovation within each storefront? One of the reasons, from our perspective, is the fact that there is a certain amount of variability when working with food given the differences from product to product, which causes a degree of complexity when it comes to automation. And, the other significant reason keeping automation out of kitchens is due to the fact that the technology that’s needed to deal with those inputs have been extremely expensive. It’s

only been recently when the cost of these technologies and equipment have come down to a level that restaurateurs are presented with a meaningful return on investment.”

Strategic partnerships

Tazbazian goes on to explain that in light of the current stresses and pressures being placed on those operating within the foodservice industry, which include a shortage of qualified talent, inflated costs and rising rent, the time is now for restaurant owners and operators to explore and adopt smart technologies, lest they be left behind. It’s a sentiment that’s shared by the Canadian Food Innovation Network, which recently awarded the smart kitchen equipment manufacturer a $1.9 million grant to advance its development and manufacturing efforts.

Gastronomous has also cultivated meaningful partnerships with industry players Sodexo Canada Limited—a leading catering and facilities management service provider—and Recipe Unlimited Corporation— owner and operator of several restaurant chains, including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and The Keg, and food distributor for large operations. These partnerships have allowed Gastronomous to further deepen its collective understanding of the needs and challenges of today’s restaurant operation. And, according to Tazbazian, it’s an understanding that he says forms the foundation from which everything the company does is built.

“We believe that every great company begins with the voice of the customer,” he says. “And, we really take that message to heart, listening to our clients to gain a comprehensive appreciation for their operation, identifying the challenges that they face as well as the areas in which there are opportunities to find greater efficiencies and increased production. Listening to them also provides us with the insights necessary to explore and determine the automated

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solutions that would fit best with their business, aligning with their goals and objectives, giving us what we need to design the right technologies and techniques for them.”

Constant evolution

Tazbazian explains further that, in addition to listening to the customer, the team at Gastronomous also conducts site visits in order to intimately understand exactly what retrofitting might be required in order to properly implement the tools and technologies into their clients’ kitchens. He describes the way that they work with their clients as a very “synchronized and harmonized” approach—one that he says allows the company to remain nimble, flexible and open to new ideas that can help improve the technologies they offer, resulting in greater end benefits.

“A big mistake that a lot of start-ups make is that they are, from the beginning, too much in love with their own product to allow themselves to properly evolve and grow,” he says. “It’s another huge benefit that results from speaking with and listening to our clients as intently as we do. Everyone has ideas. And when the end goal is to satisfy the needs of the customer and to help them overcome challenges that they’re facing, we’re always open to exploring different concepts and ideas.”

Wide-ranging benefits

It’s an approach that has enabled Gastronomous to design and manufacture smart automated kitchen equipment that offers a range of positive outcomes, including the following:

Reduced food waste and cost: The accuracy of the automated technology and techniques allows restaurant owners to leverage and utilize every piece of a given product, minimizing waste and, by proxy, the cost associated with the food being used.

Maximized efficiency and throughput: The technology enables the optimization of all orders in queue by parallelizing tasks to ensure maximum efficiency and throughput. Its system is powered by proprietary intellectual property that incorporates order scheduling, an interactive user interface, inventory control, and equipment diagnostics.

Enhanced consistency of quality: The automated technologies enhance the quality of any restaurant offering, ensuring that every item is cooked, dispensed, and prepared accurately, every single time.

Increased labour utilization: By relieving kitchen staff from redundant cooking operations, the autonomous technology allows workers to spend more time completing more strategic tasks and servicing the customer in different ways.

A smaller footprint: Products utilize a much smaller square footage than existing layouts, allowing restaurants to

drastically reduce their store footprint, allocating space more wisely.

Reductions in waste and energy usage: Through accurate portioning and dispensing, the autonomous technology helps eliminate the vast food cost variance present in most restaurants today. Moreover, products are 60% more energy-efficient than current solutions, allowing restaurants to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Enhanced food safety: Food safety is a top-of-mind issue for many customers today. Automation allows for much stricter control of pathogens within the kitchen environment.

Setting a standard

Over the past couple of years, Gastronomous has been working with one of Canada’s leading fast-food groups on the development of one of its most innovative products that Tazbazian says is going to go a long way toward setting a standard for the future of kitchen automation. The product is nearing the end of its manufacturing phase and will be in a store within the Greater Toronto Area by the beginning of February 2023. He explains that the product will be tested for three to four months before rolling it out within a network of stores across the country. In addition, Tazbazian says that, as a result of the “universal” nature of the product combined with its effectiveness in helping kitchens achieve greater efficiencies, the company has also engaged with a number of other potential clients, with whom pilots are planned for the summer of 2023.

Going forward

When connecting the dots, recognizing the challenges that most, if not all, restaurants face in today’s increasingly digital world and the ways in which Gastronomous’ automated technology solutions help to address and overcome them, it’s no wonder that the company is on a steep upward trajectory. However, according to Tazbazian, he and the team have no plans to rest on their collective laurels. In fact, he says that the designers and manufacturers of smart autonomous kitchen equipment are only getting started.

“We know that we have some fantastic products that can really help a lot of restaurant owners improve all facets of their operations. We’ve obviously received some great reception so far. But we’ve constantly got innovations and plans in the works. In fact, our strategy is to consistently have one product in the rollout phase, one that’s being piloted, somewhere in between the whiteboard and rollout phase, and another that’s purely in the conceptual phase. It ensures that we’re always on our toes with respect to identifying the challenges that the industry faces and ways we can help them not only overcome them, but to succeed and grow their businesses as well. It’s the way we approach every innovation and product. And it’s what we plan to continue doing.”

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Why Figs Why California Figs

Figs are trending! They certainly have their place in ancient history but today chefs and consumers are rediscovering the fig and simply can’t get enough. In fact, new products containing fig ingredients are on the rise around the world for flavor, functionality and nutritional benefits. This is likely due to the fig’s ability to fit into today’s top trends: organic, kosher, GMO-free, high-fiber, allnatural, gluten-free, trans fat-free, on-the-go and more

Figs are also a blank canvas for the world’s cuisine. From Mediterranean and Chinese to Indian and Japanese, figs and fig flavors are sublime in sauces, snacks, dressings, spreads, candies, baked goods, beverages and more. The flavor is unique and makes any recipe or product distinct and delicious.

While figs continue to gain momentum as a culinary staple, their reputation as a nutritious addition to the diet also remains strong. California Figs provide a nutritional punch that is unmatched by any other fruit.

In addition to being a good source of fiber, figs contribute essential vitamins and minerals to your diet, including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and copper. Figs are also rich in antioxidants, and are fat, sodium, and cholesterol-free.

California Figs are grown in the fertile soil of the Central San Joaquin Valley, home to one of the world’s most famous fruit and vegetable growing regions. Commercial fig orchards are located in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Kern Counties. California Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall. California Dried Figs are available year-round while Fresh Figs are available May – November.

When You Think Figs, Think California!

California produces seven major varieties of figs: Black Mission (dried/fresh); Brown Turkey (fresh only); Conadria (dried only); Kadota (dried/fresh); Sierra (dried/fresh); Tena (dried only); and Tiger (fresh only). Darker skinned figs, such as Black Mission and Brown Turkey, are rich purple to black in color. Lighter skinned dried figs, such as Conadria, Kadota, Sierra and Tena, may be treated with sulfur dioxide to prevent browning.

Quality and food safety are among the highest priorities for California’s fig farmers. That’s why state of the art equipment and sustainable growing practices, such as water and tree management, are in place. In addition, California Figs are inspected by the Dried Fruit Association (DFA) of California to certify for grade and quality standards required by California’s Department of Food & Agriculture, ensuring California Figs are the best in the world.

California Fig ingredient products are unique to California. The ingredients were developed to provide solutions to product developer needs. You won’t find many of these products anywhere else.

For more information, visit CaliforniaFigs.com

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The potential of renewable natural gas from Canada’s food and organic waste

Supporting Canada’s goal to net zero emission by 2050

Canada has committed itself to be a net zero emission country by 2050—a commitment that will be driven by the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act The Act will establish a legally binding process to set fiveyear national emissions-reduction targets for 2030, 2035, 2040, and 2045, as well as to develop credible, science-based emissions-reduction plans to achieve each target. The Act was introduced in the House of Commons by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on November 19, 2020. Additionally, in 2021, Canada has increased its commitment to reduce its GHG emission levels by 40-45% (of the 2005 level) by 2030, superseding its original goal of 30% which was set in 2016. Ontario accounts for the second-highest GHG emissions in Canada and will need to implement a diverse range of actions to meet the 2030 goals. One of the key actions to meet the target goals includes phasing out food and organic waste that is being sent to landfills by 2030, dramatically reducing the amount of methane that is released into the air.

Canada’s current waste situation

The Canadian economy currently seems locked into an inefficient system. Production, economics, contracts,

regulation, and consumer behaviour all favour the linear model of production and consumption. This model applies to our current food and beverage industry and is very wasteful. Between 33% and 50% of food is wasted, and many food production techniques cause widespread environmental degradation. When organics decompose, they generate gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, both of which are major contributors to climate change. Nearly 90% of emissions associated with waste come from waste sent to landfills. The situation will exacerbate within the next 30 years due to population growth and shifting demographics. The current waste management strategies, which mostly rely on engineered landfills and composting, do not encourage recycling and waste reduction. It has been forecast that Ontario’s landfills may run out of capacity in 20 years if we do not make changes to how we handle waste.

Canada generates 35.5 million tonnes of waste containing 20 to 40% organic waste. This amount of organics can be converted into about 12,000 kWh of renewable energy per year. The current waste management infrastructures in Canada can only capture 2.6 million tonnes of organic fraction from landfills. Among the provinces, New Brunswick diverted the most organics (57.57%), followed by Nova Scotia (46.84%),

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Prince Edward Island (36%), British Columbia (35.33%), Alberta (34.62%), Ontario (34.27%), Manitoba (25.38%), Newfoundland and Labrador (21.57%), Saskatchewan (16.98%), and Yukon (15.69%). In these provinces, managing technologies to establish organic fraction includes biological and thermochemical conversion systems such as composting, anaerobic digestion, hydrothermal carbonization, pyrolysis, gasification, and incineration. Among all others, anaerobic digestion seems to be a more sustainable system and can be integrated with or replace conventional waste management strategies more efficiently. Anaerobic digestion is becoming an important technology in the conversion of organic fraction municipal solid waste, waste-activated sludge, agricultural waste, animal manure, and food waste.

Canada’s existing infrastructures for solid waste management

Seven types of waste management facilities are actively operating in Canada, which are transfer station assets, composting, material recovery facility, anaerobic digestion, engineered landfill, incineration, and energy from waste. Ontario (1813), Quebec (713), Alberta (1204), British Columbia (581), Newfoundland and Labrador (324), Manitoba (595) and Saskatchewan (1074) have adopted waste management facilities. Currently, landfilling is the most common approach for municipal waste disposal in Canada. Although modern municipal solid waste landfills are able to collect and treat leachate and capture greenhouse gasses, it is still not a suitable approach for the disposal of waste. Environmental analysis of implemented waste management facilities has shown that anaerobic digestion has obvious advantages in the environmental criteria over other methods. Thus, in recent years, Canada’s municipal solid waste treatment plants are gradually adopting the anaerobic digestion mode of operation in which the organic fraction can be converted into renewable natural gas, electricity, and fertilizer. The two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, recycled the most organics and implemented the highest number of anaerobic digestion plants in 2018, with 40 and nine plants, respectively. In Ontario, such fast-paced green development is due to provincial incentives such as the FIT program.

Guideline for better selection of organic waste management methods

Anaerobic digestion is a process by which organic waste streams produced in the food and beverage industry, the paper industry, agriculture, waste water treatment plants, and households, are converted into biogas, renewable natural gas (RNG), liquid, and solid fertilizers, owing to the anaerobic bacteria or facultative anaerobic bacteria. At present, anaerobic digestion technology has been significantly advanced in Europe and turned into a well-established waste management strategy within the continent. With 18,943 biogas plants, 725 biomethane plants, 15.8 billion m 3 of

biogas and 2.4 billion m 3 of biomethane Europe is considered the leading producer of biomethane. However, compared with Europe, biogas production in Canada is a small but fast-growing industry. Canadian gas utilities are looking at measures to support a target of up to 10% RNG into natural gas pipeline distribution systems by 2030. Nationally, this amount of RNG would be equal to approximately 10.6 million m 3 of natural gas per year. This volume of RNG could fuel 3.1 million homes with renewable fuel annually. It would result in 14 megatonnes of GHG emission reductions per year, the equivalent to removing 3 million cars from the road.

Introducing the organic fraction from municipal solid waste into a city’s existing wastewater treatment plants could provide significant opportunities for Canada’s renewable energy market. Some robust, cutting-edge solutions for organic waste recovery from municipal solid waste in Canada are available. Unlike traditional approaches, these solutions can recover 90% of organics without limitations on in-feed contamination levels. For example, the Dufferin Organics Processing Facility is designed to process 55,000 tonnes per year of source separated organics (SSO) collected through the city of Toronto’s Green Bin program. It generates renewable energy, high-quality digestate, and treated water for process re-use. The waste consists of kitchen scraps and organic waste (including animal waste, food, diapers, and soiled paper and packaging).

Another important by-product alongside RNG that should be considered in the anaerobic treatment of organic fraction municipal solid waste is digestate. Currently, Canadian project developers and policymakers mainly focus on financial subsidies for RNG production. They do not consider the market opportunities of digestate in agricultural applications (i.e., organic fertilizer) and non-agricultural applications (i.e., soil remediation, biochar production, landfill cover and landscape restoration). In line with the circular economy concept, the European Commission has specified certain principles to collect revenue from organic digestate. This approach is being introduced in other developed countries, including Canada. Policymakers are working on national regulations defining digestate quality to ensure the economic viability and environmental safety of OFMSW (organic fraction of municipal solid waste) digestate use. The most successful reference of using OFMSW digestate as a class A fertilizer is the Realto bioenergy facility in California. This facility has the capacity to receive 700 tonnes per day of pre-processed source-separated organics and 300 tonnes per day of dewatered wastewater treatment plant sludge and convert them into 3 MW electricity, 1200 standard cubic feet per minute RNG, and 26 tonnes per day biochar.

Becoming a net zero emission country by 2050 is certainly no small feat. However, by leveraging the potential of renewable natural gas from Canada’s food and organic waste, and optimizing a currently inefficient system, it’s a goal that may yet be possible.

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Reducing food loss and waste at BLOOM RESTAURANT

Applied research explores ways to identify food waste and how to address it

Ateamof researchers, faculty, and students at Kitchener, ON-based Conestoga College is transforming the campus's Bloom Kitchen restaurant into a climate action living lab. Led by Nicole Detlor, Director of the Conestoga Food Research and Innovation Lab and Stephen Thomson, Director of the Centre for Supply Chain Innovation, the Living Lab team hopes to be able to demonstrate the impact and solutions to greenhouse emissions related to food and packaging choices and food waste. The project

set an ambitious target of reducing waste by 50% and is working with Bloom staff to achieve this goal by early 2023.

Why is reducing food waste important?

A significant amount of food grown for human consumption is not consumed. In fact, according to the 2019 research paper, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste, nearly 60% of food produced in Canada or approximately 35.5 million tonnes, is wasted annually where 32% or 11.2 million tonnes of that

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Sources of Food Waste

food is edible and could be redirected. The value of the rescuable waste is $49.46 billion. There are economic, environmental and social reasons why this is a significantly important problem to address.

Economic

Food wasted and lost during harvesting, processing, storing, and transporting is considered a cost of doing business. Reducing food waste at the source is the most preferred method of food and cost recovery. In addition to reducing costs, food heading to the waste stream could be diverted to uses that add revenue. An example of this is the use of spent grains from beer-making being sold to bakeries to make bread.

Environmental

When food is wasted, the land, water, feed, fertilizer, fuel, and other inputs are also wasted. The greenhouse gases (GHG) required to produce these inputs is also wasted and totals 56.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions. Especially concerning is that organic waste in the landfill produces methane gas on decomposition, which is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Social

The number of people using food banks in Canada is at an all-time high. According to a recent report from Food Banks Canada, there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in March 2022, which was 15% higher than the number of visits in the same month in 2021 and 35% higher than the visits in March 2019. It is important to identify any sources of food waste that could be redistributed to vulnerable populations.

Where's the waste?

The sources of food waste on the value chain are as follows: manufacturing (23%), consumers (21%), processing (20%), restaurants and hotels (13%), retail stores (12%), production/ harvesting (6%), and distribution (5%).

Although waste from restaurants and hotels only accounts for 13% of system waste, the results of the research will inform the supply chain practices at Bloom, which we will share with industry and look for waste reduction opportunities along the entire value chain. Within the context of restaurants and hotels, where this research focuses, previous studies have found the major categories of food waste in restaurants include food preparation waste (45%), inedible food waste (21%), and food left uneaten by customers (34%).

Food waste at Bloom Restaurant

A 50% reduction of waste is a significant goal. To help reach this target, the Living Lab team brought in the expertise of Laura Matheson, a professor in the Sustainability Business Management Program at Conestoga College, to help identify the best way to approach the challenge. Being familiar with other process improvement frameworks, like PlanDo-Check-Act (PDCA), the team decided on the following approach which recognizes the continuous nature of improvement:

Step 1 Identify food loss and waste (conduct a food audit)

Step 2 Identify the root causes of food loss and waste

Step 3 —Select and evaluate solutions

Step 4—Implement solutions

Step 5 —Monitor results

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Conducting a food audit

Under Matheson’s guidance, students enrolled in the sustainable operations course planned and conducted a food waste audit on the week of October 10, 2022, to identify the sources of waste and to set a baseline to monitor the progress towards a 50% reduction. The result of the audit provides data to reach the benchmark goal. In Spring 2023, a follow-up audit is planned that will serve to monitor the results and identify any new ways to reduce waste further.

Initial results

The initial results of the audit found that of the 86.3 kg of waste collected during a 24-hour period, food waste made up 75% (65 kg). The food waste was found in three different streams: 3.1 kg was from the dining room/plate waste, 57.2 kg from the kitchen compost bins, and 4.9 kg of organics was found in the garbage stream.

Reduction of food waste

This research project focuses on practical, low-cost solutions to reduce food waste. The restaurant waste can be separated into two large categories: back of house and dining room/plate waste. Back of house waste is food waste from preparation or food that is spoiled or past expiry date. Plate waste is mainly uneaten foods from the consumer but can include dropped plates or food sent back to the kitchen.

Food preparation waste

Although some waste is unavoidable in the preparation of food, having a plan can enable redirecting as much as possible. We have focused our efforts at the Living Lab on the hierarchy

of waste reduction: prevent, reduce, reuse, recycle/upcycle, recover, and compost. As with any change, regular training is crucial to success, and staff need to understand the different waste streams and their correct usage.

The avoidance of spoiled ingredients and prepared food as a waste stream is dependent on a robust inventory management system tied to an ability to forecast sales. The implementation of techniques such as FIFO (firstin, first-out), DOH (days on hand), colour coding and multi-use ingredients all assist with managing inventory. FIFO is an inventory management system that organizes ingredients in a way that they are rotated to ensure that oldest ingredients are used first. DOH provides data to those ordering ingredients to calculate the average number of days that inventory is held before use. This can help with future decision-making regarding ordering, ensuring that the days on hand are kept for as short a time as possible. Colour coding makes quick decision-making when selecting ingredients from storage and helps the person ordering ingredients. Another approach is to include date received and use-by date labelling on all ingredients and prepared foods. An ingredient with a single use may be more difficult to manage in inventory as its turnover rate will depend more heavily on the accuracy of sales forecasting. Multi-use ingredients offer some flexibility in the menu and ensure that ingredients can be used within their shelf life.

Having a plan for prepared food that will not make it to the consumer before reaching the end of its usable shelf life can also help reduce waste. Several apps have been developed that help connect customers with restaurants (and other food services) to ensure excess prepared food does not go to

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waste. As well, having a plan to donate food while it is still useable is another way to prevent food from going to a waste stream.

Upcycling edible streams may include using vegetable trimmings for soup, stocks or sauces, using trimmed fruit for smoothies or dessert toppings, or using stale bread for croutons or breadcrumbs.

Ensuring that any food waste goes to compost rather than landfill is important. Ensuring easily accessible compost bins in the food preparation area of the kitchen limits the effort and helps to ensure compliance.

Dining room waste/plate waste

The waste generated in the dining room impacts the consumer experience more than the other categories discussed. Therefore, implementation with this understanding is important. Through a waste audit, it is possible to identify menu items that more often end up in the waste stream (or that are not taken away by consumers). Adjustment of portion sizes to reflect consumption is one way to address this source of food waste. Ongoing review of the impact on the consumer experience is important when adjustments are made to the menu to ensure the desired results are achieved.

Results of the waste audit at Bloom found that plate waste was mainly side dish carbohydrates such as potatoes or a bun. Offering consumers an opportunity to “opt in” to these parts of the meal may reduce this plate waste. Another strategy is to reduce the quantity of side dish carbohydrates with the option of a “refill” if desired. Providing staff with easy access to compost bins for plate waste helps to ensure this stream is disposed of correctly.

There will always be opportunities to reduce food waste. Having fact-based data to support strategies to reduce food waste is critical. By making small incremental changes, we can all have an impact to reduce our food waste.

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A powerful multi-shaft mixer

The VersaMix Multi-Shaft Mixers from ROSS are ideal for processing medium to high viscosity applications up to several hundred thousand centipoise, such as thick slurries, pastes, gels and suspensions. These vacuum-rated VMC-3000s are operated from an independent 15” NEMA 4X touchscreen control panel. The mixers also feature stainless steel type 304 dimpled, dual-zone jackets designed for 100 psig at 200 oF. VersaMix models range from laboratory to large-scale capacities up to 4,000 gallons. www.mixers.com

A pneumatic depositor that’s smart

Unifiller's newly created +Series Depositors blend the power of pneumatic machines with digital precision, allowing users to control speed, volume, splash reduction, pre-charge and deposit pressure profiling for the most accurate deposits. Available in three sizes, the depositor comes with Bluetooth for smart device connection, is compatible with standard attachments and accessories, and has a contamination sensor. www.unifiller.com

Pumping up sustainability

High Pressure Processing (HPP) technology helps the food industry address global sustainability challenges such as food waste, product recalls and related foodborne illnesses. The Quintus HPP non-thermal method is recognized for inactivating foodborne pathogens and extending refrigerated shelf life without impact to taste or nutrition. Designed for streamlined installation and robust operation, the system reduces the risk of unplanned stops and provides great packaging flexibility.

Cold fogger makes disinfecting a breeze

Apply disinfectants, sanitizers and insecticides with the XPOWER F-16B battery-powered ULV cold fogger. Ideal for the food and plant industry, it’s easy to use with its compact and lightweight design. A 1.2 litre (0.3 gallon) reservoir includes a window for monitoring of the solution fill level. It allows for wide coverage while using minimal amounts of solution. www.xpower.com

More injector needles for faster marinating

www.quintustechnologies.com

Marinating injectors add flavour in to beef, pork, chicken and fish, cutting marinating time to a few hours. MPBS Industries provides various styles of brine pumps/pickling and marinating injectors to suit your needs. They range from single needles in handheld and electric-powered injectors to multiple needle marinating injectors and large industrial sized injectors. www.mpbs.com

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A leader in Canadian canned foods

Since 1973, Sun-Brite Foods has been providing consumers with high-quality canned tomatoes, sauces, condiments, beans and pasta. Its brand names include Unico and Primo, with a client list that includes Campbell Soup Company, Heinz and others. Sun-Brite Foods can process as much as 180,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year and offers various packaging options.

www.sun-brite.com

New software helps boost production

BatchMaster Software solutions help emerging and growing formulabased manufacturers bring their products to market, while reducing costs and complying with stringent regulatory mandates. The process manufacturing product suite includes Sample, Lab, Formulation, Production, Costing, Quality, Compliance and Reporting, as well as advanced Inventory, Planning, Scheduling, EDI, and Mobile capabilities compatible with leading financial platforms like SAP Business One and Microsoft Dynamics GP.

www.batchmaster.com

A meat cutter’s best friend

Designed for professional use, Omcan’s line of European bandsaws are ideal for butcher shops, hotels, restaurant kitchens, and supermarkets. They're perfect for cutting both fresh and frozen meat, fish and bones. The durable structure is constructed with high-quality powder-painted aluminum, and is easy to clean and safe to use.

www.omcan.com

Simply safeguarding with new x-ray technology

The Mettler Toledo X12 X-ray is a cost-effective, reliable x-ray inspection system for food manufacturers designed to detect hard-to-find physical contaminants, eliminating costly product recalls and protecting consumers as well as brand reputations. User-friendly, the automated product is coupled with the company’s intelligent ContamPlus inspection software.

www.mt.com

Pepperoni peeling made easy

Spend less time peeling casings and more time perfecting your product. Kohler’s new, non-stop, completely autonomous industrial pepperoni peeling system is able to remove casings up to 26 sticks a minute, making it possible to cut costs and increase production. The Kohler Automatic Peeler can be tailored to remove the casings from dry salami and sausages of varying length and diameter.

www.kohlerindustries.com

Modular belt supports more weight

The Rexnord 1600 Series KleanTop plastic modular belt allows for increased weight and speed and longer conveyor runs, maximizing customer throughput. The design allows for easy hygienic cleaning. The belt supports a variety of food and general conveying applications including: direct food contact, sideflexing, mass flow, cooling, pan and tray handling, packaging and bagging.

www2.rexnord.com

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Canada’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge

Inan effort to combat one of the most negative contributors to food insecurity, the Government of Canada launched its firstever Food Waste Reduction Challenge in November 2020. One of the main pillars within the government’s introduction of The Food Policy for Canada, the challenge involves four streams of funding for selected applicants that have proven to be companies that display innovation and creativity, presenting potential to significantly divert waste at any point in the value chain, from farm to plate, either by way of business models or technologies.

Multiple streams

Streams A and B within the challenge involve organizations and companies that have developed solutions that are ready for commercialization, while streams C and D involve those that are currently developing technologies that are at the prototyping or testing phase and present the potential to extend the life of perishable food or transform surplus food that would otherwise be wasted into another product.

Reducing waste across the supply chain

It’s a challenge that received an inordinate number of submissions prior to the application deadlines for each of the streams, and is a bid to allay the amount of waste that’s produced within the country each year. According to most estimates, more than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted annually, representing an astonishing $50 billion worth of avoidable waste. By encouraging more solutions to food waste in Canadian society, suggests Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the potential results could be incredibly positive.

“Reducing food waste is necessary for so many reasons: it can help save consumers money, improve food security, support efficiency in the agriculture and food sector, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “Through this exciting challenge, our government is finding new ways of reducing food waste across the supply chain.”

Helping to meet climate change targets

It’s a sentiment that’s shared by Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s former Minister of Environment and Climate Change (201921), who stresses the importance of the challenge toward helping the government achieve other goals and objectives that have been set.

“In order to meet our climate targets, Canada must address emissions from all sectors, including emissions from food loss

and waste,” he says. “From production, to transportation, to disposal in landfills, food loss and waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The Food Waste Reduction Challenge will help Canadians develop innovative and effective solutions to this problem and I am excited to see the results.”

Winners to be announced

The Food Waste Reduction Challenge represents an overall investment of $20 million, with $1.5 million awarded to the winner of each stream within a meticulous and wellthought-out gated process that carefully evaluated each and every applicant. Now, more than three years since the launch of the challenge, many are looking ahead with anticipation toward the announcement of winners, with stream A and B awards set to be announced during Fall 2023, and recipients within streams C and D announced during Spring 2024.

Eliminating waste

Meant to be a significant part of the government’s creation of a roadmap of sorts to guide Canada toward the development of a healthier and more sustainable food system, the challenge serves as a potential means which will enable people across the country with greater access to healthy food. And, according to Chair of the Zero Waste Council, Malcolm Brodie, it also represents an extremely positive step in the right direction toward eliminating waste in the country.

“The National Zero Waste Council congratulates AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) on introducing the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, which will help address food loss and waste by giving our nation’s small and medium companies a chance to scale up their innovative business models while also encouraging leadership from the biggest players,” he says. “We are pleased that the Challenge aligns so well with our Food Loss and Waste Strategy for Canada, and applaud the Government of Canada for its leadership and support for efforts to reduce food loss and waste for the benefit of Canada’s food security, economy and climate.”

For a full list of remaining applicants eligible to win the Government of Canada’s first-ever Food Waste Reduction Challenge, and for further information and details concerning the criteria, process and funding, visit https:// impact.canada.ca/en/challenges/food-waste-reductionchallenge.

Bringing together innovators to help solve one of the country’s most pressing issues concerning food
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TIME 54 BIOLAB BUSINESS VOLUME 37, ISSUE 4 • 2022-23
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