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Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine — Driving Innovation in the Bioeconomy

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Nylon 66 is a (durable) plastic that’s found in everything from car parts and food packaging to clothing and shoes. The polymer is formed with a compound called adipic acid, but producing this foundational building block has significant environmental implications.

The traditional process of producing adipic acid releases high volumes of nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas 300 times worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. That’s why Khorcheska Batyrova and Anna Khusnutdinova have set out to revolutionize the global plastics market, worth nearly US$600 billion annually, through their emissions-free bio-nylon. 

Redefining sustainability through innovation 

“The world can’t stop using this polymer because it’s one of the most resilient polymers out there,” explains Batyrova, Co-Founder of the women-led start-up, OzoneBio. They’ve adapted a bio-based process that’s both simpler and much cheaper than conventional production to create an adipic acid powder with a 98 per cent conversion efficiency.

The green technology relies on low-cost treated wood waste — by-products from the pulp and paper industry — and novel, natural enzymes they call “zombie cells.” They’re now optimizing and scaling their technology and have attracted interest from multinational chemical companies and major sportswear brands.

It’s happening here and now

Innovators in the bioeconomy, like OzoneBio, are already redefining what it means to be sustainable. But if we want to achieve a net-zero future, the right supports and resources must be accessible at the right time to drive these novel solutions through a development pipeline and into the marketplace.

Canadian governments have historically excelled at supporting early-stage research. Still, if we look at Bloomberg Innovation Index, Canada is ranked 21 globally on its ability to move innovation to the marketplace. This suggests that we’ve fallen behind in commercializing much of the ground-breaking research that can contribute to building the bioeconomy and advancing the sustainable solutions of tomorrow.

Driving innovation through a united ecosystem

As Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine (The Engine), Bioenterprise Canada brings more than 15 years of industry experience in the food, agri-tech, and clean-tech sectors. We work to transform cutting-edge innovations, like emissions-free bio-nylon, into commercial success stories every day, and we understand that collaboration is key to driving innovation.

So, what did Khorcheska and Anna’s path to commercialization look like? After participating in IndieBio, a green-tech accelerator in California’s Silicon Valley, the founders made a connection with two partners of The Engine, Innovacorp, where they established a strategic connection with the venture capital firm’s sector lead for Agri-tech and Bioresource technologies, and Cape Breton’s Verschuren Centre, which was key in providing much-needed lab space to operate out of. 

As Bioenterprise members, they’ve benefitted from bi-weekly business coaching support and integral introductions to organizations like Emissions Reductions Alberta, Winpak, Total Energies, and the Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources. 

Bioenterprise Canada is committed to breaking down industry silos to help scaling businesses overcome common barriers to growth. Our national and international network of research institutions, academia, mentors and experts, funders and investors, government, and industry partners help small and medium-sized businesses in the bioeconomy connect, innovate, and grow.

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