March 9, 2009 - Edmonton, AB

A crop which first gained fame in Star Trek is travelling to new frontiers in Alberta’s bio-economy. Triticale, which can thrive on land where water and nutrients are scarce, is expected to become a high-yield superstar for industrial agriculture.
Triticale has traditionally been used as cattle feed but is now being targeted for its enormous potential for products. The Alberta Government recognized this frontier several years ago and invested over $4 million in getting new research off the ground through a network which included the Alberta Research Council. The Government of Canada recently put the initiative in the headlines with a $15.5 million boost.

The head of industrial bioproduct business development at the Alberta Research Council (ARC), Richard Gibson, says applications under development include producing biomaterials, specialty chemicals, bio-fuels and feed from the grain and the plant itself. Consumer products produced from triticale could be found in car parts to building materials, paints to pharmaceuticals in the next five to 10 years.

“Triticale is a crop that farmers can use to add tremendous value to their operations. They can grow it in marginal, dry land by using their existing equipment and techniques for growing wheat,” says Gibson. He adds, in the process, it has the potential to help build the Alberta economy since it’s a renewable feedstock that has so many applications.

Triticale’s secret to success lies in the fact it is a large biomass producer, much more so than wheat. It also has a high starch content in the grain for use in fuel and plastics. The byproducts can be used to make chemicals and the leftover residues can then be used for combustion or further digested to biofuels. “Triticale could be to the biorefinery what crude oil is to the petroleum refinery,” predicts Gibson.

Ottawa’s support for the potential of triticale came about through the federal Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program which has pledged the 15-million dollars to the Canadian Triticale Biorefinery Institute. The CTBI, which was first established three years ago, focused on using all elements of the triticale feedstock to produce valuable resources such as chemicals, biomaterials, fibres and feed.

CTBI now has 19 partner organizations committed to 30 different triticale research and development projects. Its 2020 vision is to see triticale grown across western Canada to supply locally established, world-scale biorefineries, producing a range of products and co-products including renewable energy, platform chemicals and bio-materials.

Gibson recalls memories of growing up in Winnipeg, where the first commercial variety of the crop was developed in the late 60's. Agriculturalists were thrilled with the hybrid they made by combining wheat and rye. There were predictions about triticale becoming a new source for food but industry still preferred wheat for baking and flour products.

The vision of the scientists in the sixties was shared by the producers of Star Trek. In the famous episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” furry little animals called tribbles got on board the USS Enterprise and ate a valuable supply of advanced grain that was intended to be the new food supply for an entire planet. That grain, of course, was triticale. Richard Gibson says tribbles may have been the star of the show at the time but it’s obvious for some agriculturalists, the thought of triticale becoming a key in a planet’s future never went away. Today their dream is closer than ever to becoming reality.

About the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program
Funding for this project is being provided through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP), a federal program that integrates Canada's talent from universities, industry and government to stimulate creativity, leverage investments, reduce costs and accelerate commercialization of bioproducts and bioprocesses to create new opportunities and long-term stability for Canadian farm families. For more information, please visit agr.gc.ca/abip.

About the Canadian Triticale Biorefinery Initiative
The Canadian Triticale Biorefinery Initiative (CTBI) is a 10-year program to develop triticale as a dedicated bio-industrial crop supplying locally established, world-scale biorefineries producing sustainable materials, energy, and platform chemicals. For more information, please visit CTBI.ca.

About the Alberta Research Council
The Alberta Research Council delivers innovative science and technology solutions that meet the priorities of industry and government in Alberta and beyond. Established in 1921, ARC is wholly-owned by the Government of Alberta and incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation. ARC operates in five facilities throughout Alberta, serving the energy, life sciences (including agriculture, environment, forestry, and health and wellness) and manufacturing sectors.


For more information please contact:

Jennifer Moncion
Corporate Relations, Alberta Research Council
Direct: (780) 632-8409
Cell: (780) 603-8940