Home » Environment » Biomass Canada – Fueling the Canadian Bioeconomy

Donald Smith

CEO, BioFuelNet Canada & Professor, McGill

Xiaomin Zhou

Director of Operations, BioFuelNet Canada

The Biomass Cluster (BMC) is Canada’s first research cluster focused on commoditizing biomass, including farm-to-market supply chains and enhancing sustainability.

Climate change poses an increasing challenge to the production of both food and biomass crops. In addition to food security, these crops are necessary as they’ll play a key role in underpinning the developing Canadian bioeconomy through allowing for the reliable production of biomass (sustainable proportion of crop residues in the case of food crops) bioenergy, including biofuels, and associated high-value bioproducts, such as bio-plastics and pharmaceuticals. The agricultural sector has a key role to play in Canada’s drive to develop its bioeconomy and decrease the carbon footprint of the energy and materials that we consume and export. The potential payback, a thriving agro-bioeconomy, to Canada is enormous. The agricultural sector could reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by up to the equivalent of 79 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and generate up to $3.8 billion in additional farm revenues.

What we can do?

BMC was developed by BioFuelNet, which was established through earlier Networks of Centres of Excellence funding. The BMC spans 5 years (2018 to 2023), with support from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and other partners. The BMC includes 22 industry partners, as well as 7 universities, 15 lead researchers and co-leaders (five from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), plus 51 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows being trained. The BMC work will improve technologies and market opportunities for biomass, bioenergy, and associated high-value bioproducts, benefitting agricultural producers across Canada, including in the northern regions.

BMC seeks to mobilize Canada’s agricultural sector to commoditize biomass for bioenergy and bioproducts, to benefit agricultural producers across Canada, while mitigating and adapting to climate change. In doing so it will improve agricultural producers’ incomes through biomass production on marginal lands (where food material is generally not produced) and adding value to agricultural wastes. This will serve to improve the overall sustainability of Canadian agriculture by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (production of biofuels and incorporation of organic matter into soils) and making Canadian crop production systems more climate change resilient (enhanced stress resistance through plant-microbe interactions). BMC’s work will enable Canadian farmers to earn additional revenues from crop residues, biomass crops grown on marginal lands and from the emerging carbon credit markets. BMC is divided into three themes: 1) Biomass and bioenergy for northern latitudes, 2) Optimization of biomass production, and 3) Biomass pre-processing, supply-chain logistics and economics. BMC also conducts a considerable level of knowledge transfer, ensuring that producers and industry are fully informed regarding research outcomes.

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