Tag Archives: Natural Resources Canada

Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop, two projects, and $14.7M in funding

The Canadian government used to create Crown Corporations, a kind of quasi-government agency/ business corporation that was run as a not-for-profit operation. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) bears some of the marks of a crown corporation (completely government-funded) but it’s self-described as a not-for-profit foundation. Before getting to the main event (Vive Crop) here’s a little bit from the SDTC Profile page,

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a not-for-profit foundation that finances and supports the development and demonstration of clean technologies which provide solutions to issues of climate change, clean air, water quality and soil, and which deliver economic, environmental and health benefits to Canadians.

SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The SD Tech Fund™ supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil. The NextGen Biofuels Fund™ supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels.

SDTC is clearly focused on the economy and entrepreneurship in addition to sustainability as per their Sept. 9, 2013 news release about  a recent $14.7M investment,

The Government of Canada is showing its commitment to a green Canadian economy with an in investment of $14.7 million to help four new clean technology projects from across the country reach commercialization. The announcement was made today by the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, and Dr. Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“The projects announced today are great examples of the Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship that characterizes SDTC’s portfolio, valued at more than $2 billion and brimming with innovative technological solutions,” said Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of SDTC. “Canadian cleantech leaders are continuing to create economic opportunities and open up avenues to new export markets.”


The newly-funded projects are representative of the investment priorities established in the SD Business Cases™, a series of six reports published by SDTC that provide strategic insights into specific economic sectors (available in the Knowledge Centre section of the SDTC website at http://www.sdtc.ca/).

SDTC’s SD Tech Fund™ has committed $598 million to 246 clean technology projects. These figures include adjustments made to the portfolio.

Vive Crop, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario,  is a recipient for two of the four projects being funded. Here’s more about one of the projects from the Sept. 18, 2013 Vive Crop news release,

Vive Crop Protection is pleased to announce that it received an investment of $3.7 million from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to develop an improved pesticide application distribution method that will translate into greater efficiency and reduced wastage.

Vive’s Allosperse® particle will be used to hold pesticides and deliver them precisely where they need to go.

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“Canadian farmers want a more economical and effective way to protect their crops from pests,” said Keith Thomas, CEO, Vive Crop Protection. “Thanks to support from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop Protection will further develop the Allosperse platform, precisely targeting pesticides where they act on crops.”

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophillic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophillic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially-designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

I have written about Vive Crop previously (most recently in an Aug. 7, 2013 posting when they received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for an insecticide) and my curiosity about Allosperse particles has not yet been satisfied. What are the chemical constituents? In lieu of an answer to that question (it’s nowhere on the company website), I found more information about Vive Crop and its SDTC-funded projects in this latest round of funding. As I noted previously, Vive Crop is involved in two of the funded projects as per the Sept. 9, 2013 SDTC backgrounder,

2. Lead organization: Macrotek

Project Title: Novel MVI Acid Gas Scrubbing Technology Project

Environmental Benefits: Climate Change/Clean Air/Clean Water/Clean Soil

Economic Sector: Waste management

SDTC Investment: $2 million

Consortium Members:

Macrotek

Vive Crop Protection [emphasis mine]

Plasco Energy Group

Project Description:

To avoid injecting contaminants into the atmosphere, industries use chemical reactions to “scrub” exhaust before it is emitted from smokestacks. However, current scrubbing techniques use caustic and oxidizing reagents (materials used to produce a chemical reaction). Macrotek has developed a groundbreaking suite of technologies that scrub in a novel, cost-effective and efficient way. The technology is developed initially to eliminate hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is a major component of acid rain, from industrial gas streams. The technology uses a regenerative reagent, drastically reducing reagent consumption. It also converts H2S into its elemental form of sulphur, eliminating the current need to treat sulphate byproduct in wastewater streams. When full life-cycle costs are considered, this technology could cost less than 50 percent of the operating costs of traditional scrubber technologies, while maintaining or improving contaminant removal efficiency. This technology has the potential to address a multitude of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, simultaneously.

3. Lead organization: Vive Crop Protection

Project Title: Targeted Delivery for Crop Protection

Environmental Benefits: Clean water/clean soil

Economic Sector: Agriculture

SDTC Investment: $3.7 million

Consortium Members:

Vive Crop Protection

Dow AgroSciences LLC

Loveland Products Inc. (a division of crop production services)

Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc.

Halltech Inc.

University of Alberta – Office of Environmental NanoSafety

University of Toronto – Institute for Optical Sciences

McGill University

Project Description:

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophilic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophilic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

Congratulations to Vive Crop and all of the other funding recipients!

Council of Canadian Academies tries to answer question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

The Council of Canadian Academies is an organization designed to answer questions about science in Canada. From the Council’s About Us webpage on their website,

The Council is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that supports science-based, expert assessments (studies) to inform public policy development in Canada. The Council began operation in 2005 and consists of a Board of Governers, a Scientific Advisory Committee and Secretariat. The Council draws upon the intellectual capital that lies within its three Member Academies the Royal Society of Canada (RSC); the Canadian Academy of Engineering;  and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Our mission is to contribute to the shaping of evidence-based public policy that is in the public interest. This is achieved by appointing independent, multidisciplinary panels of expert volunteers. The Council’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.

Expert Panels directly address the question and sub-questions referred to them. Panel assessments may also identify: emerging issues, gaps in knowledge, Canadian strengths, and international trends and practices. Upon completion, assessments provide government decision-makers, academia and stakeholders with high-quality information required to develop informed and innovative public policy.

Several months ago, Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology), requested on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada an assessment of science culture in Canada. From the State of Canada’s Science Culture webpage on the Council of Canadian Academies website,

Over the past 30 years, public interest and debate has been steadily growing in Canada and abroad over the need to foster a science culture as part of the national science and technology agenda. In this period, significant government and private investments have contributed to the development of hundreds of individual science culture programs and institutions.

Now more than ever the volume of programs and data support the need for a national examination of issues, such as the performance indicators that best reflect the vitality of Canada’s science culture, and a need to understand where Canada ranks internationally. The expert panel will be asked to consider these and other questions such as what factors influence an interest in science among youth; what are the key components of the informal system that supports science culture; and what strengths and weaknesses exist in the Canadian system.

Assessments of science culture can focus either on science in the general culture, or the culture among scientists. This assessment will focus principally on the former, with additional interest in understanding the underlying connections among entrepreneurship, innovation and science. …

The full assessment process includes a rigorous peer review exercise to ensure the report is objective, balanced and evidence-based. Following the review and approval by the Council’s Board of Governors, the complete report will be made available on the Council’s website in both official languages. …

Question

What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Sub-questions:

  1. What is the state of knowledge regarding the impacts of having a strong science culture?
  2. What are the indicators of a strong science culture? How does Canada compare with other countries against these indicators? What is the relationship between output measures and major outcome measures?
  3. What factors (e.g., cultural, economic, age, gender) influence interest in science, particularly among youth?
  4. What are the critical components of the informal system that supports science culture (roles of players, activities, tools and programs run by science museums, science centres, academic and not-for-profit organizations and the private sector)? What strengths and weaknesses exist in Canada’s system?
  5. What are the effective practices that support science culture in Canada and in key competitor countries?

Hopefully, the expert panel will have a definition of some kind for “science culture.”

After waiting what seems to be an unusually long period, the Council announced the chair for the  “science culture” expert panel (from the CCA Dec. 19, 2012 news release),

Arthur Carty to Serve as Expert Panel Chair on the State of Canada’s Science Culture

The Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Arthur Carty, O.C., as Chair of the Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture. In 2011, the Minister of State (Science and Technology) on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada requested the Council conduct an in-depth, evidence-based assessment on the state of Canada’s science culture.

As Chair of the Council’s Expert Panel, Dr. Carty will work with a multidisciplinary group of experts, to be appointed by the Council, to address the following question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Dr. Carty is currently the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Carty also serves as Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and as Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Prior to this, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada from 2004-2007 and as President of the National Research Council Canada from 1994-2004.

You can find out more on Carty’s biography webpage, on the CCA website,

Arthur Carty is the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo, Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry

From 2004-2008, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada. Prior to this appointment, he was President of the National Research Council Canada for 10 years. Before this, he spent 2 years at Memorial University and then 27 years at the University of Waterloo, where he was successively Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Dean of Research.

….

Carty’s profile page on the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology (WIN) website offers the same information but in more detail.

It’s difficult to divine much from the biographical information about Carty as it is very purpose-oriented to impress the reader with Carty’s international and national involvements in the field of science advice and collaboration. Carty may have extensive experience with multi-disciplinary teams and an avid interest in a science culture that includes informal science education and the arts and humanities, unfortunately, it’s not visible on either the CCA or WIN website biographies.

Hopefully,  Carty and the CCA will assemble a diverse expert panel. (Warning: blatant self-promotion ahead) If they are looking for a person of diverse personal and professional interests

  • who has an MA in Creative Writing (nonfiction and fiction) and New Media from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK and
  • a BA (Communication – Honors) from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada and
  • who has built up one of the largest and longest-running independent science blogs in the country thereby contributing to science culture in Canada,
  • neatly combining the social sciences, the humanities, and an informed perspective on science and science culture in Canada in one person,

they may want to contact me at [email protected] I have more details in the CV and can supply references.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC): killer app for Canadian forestry industry?

Bertrand Marotte, a writer from one of Canada’s better known newspapers, The Globe and Mail, contacted me a few weeks ago regarding his proposed story on Canada’s nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) efforts. May 6, 2012, he posted his article, Domtar leading the way to market eco-friendly NCC. I was a little curious about what he’d done with the information I’d given him and happy to see this article.

Compared to the amount of hype and excitement I’ve seen and sometimes contributed to myself, Marotte offers a more restrained perspective. From the May 6, 2012 article,

Industry leaders say the forestry sector – hammered over the past 10 years by declining demand for newsprint and paper in the digital revolution, competition from low-cost producers in developing countries and a surfeit of inefficient old mills – has to re-invent itself by creating new revenue streams if it is to survive.

Innovations being pursued by forestry companies come none too soon, but the risks are huge and a payoff is far from guaranteed.

Tom Rosser, assistant deputy minister at Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service, agrees the risk factor is high.

“These are very risky technologies that make it hard to attract private capital,” he said.

Tim Harper, the CEO of London-based Cientifica, a consultant on advanced technologies, describes the market for NCC as “very much a push, without signs of any pull.”

Mention of an AbitiBowater lignin project in Marotte’s article helped to underline the forestry industry’s urgency.

Interestingly, there’s no mention of the NCC project plant in Alberta (mentioned in my July 5, 2011 posting) or Canada’s worldwide NCC production lead.

Canadians are taking a huge risk and, so far, we’re taking the lead on the production side of things but, in a quintessentially Canadian fashion, the article casts doubt on the whole enterprise and ends on that note.

We tout innovation but at the same are deeply disconcerted by and hesitant about the risktaking required to be truly innovative. (I have to note that I too write pieces that can be quite restrained and critical of these types of endeavours.) Really, it’s as much a question of culture as anything else. How do we support innovation and risktaking while maintaining some of our quintessential character?

FPInnovations and a $25M investment from Natural Resources Canada

The federal government’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, made a big announcement in Vancouver on July 14, 2011 (from the FPInnovations news release),

Canada’s  forestry  innovation  hub,  FPInnovations,  today  welcomed  Federal  Natural  Resources  Minister  Joe  Oliver’s  announcement  of  $25.5‐million  towards  the  2011‐2012  Transformative  Technologies  Research  Program  (TTP).  This  program  focuses  on  the  development,  adaptation,  and  deployment  of  emerging  and  breakthrough  technologies  relating  to  forest  biomass  utilization,  forest  biotechnology,  nanotechnology,  green  chemistry,  bio‐materials,  innovative  wood‐based  building  systems  as  well  as  information  and  communications  technologies.

“Today’s  announcement  extends  a  unique  industry/government  partnership  that  is  transforming  the  forest  sector  through  innovation.  This  announcement  will  help  build  and  strengthen  an  innovative  and  diversified  forest  products  sector  in  Canada.   That  is  good  news  for  job  growth  and  new  economic  opportunities  for  hard  hit  forestry  communities,”  stated  Alan  Potter,  Vice‐President  of  FPInnovations.

I have posted about FPInnovations and their nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) research previously. I was hoping that there might be some information about whether these funds will be applied to NCC research but no details were given.

Canadian federal scientists (or their union) have launched a media campaign and website

These are interesting times. A union representing scientists employed by the Canadian federal government has launched a campaign and website promoting science. From the CBC October 18, 2010 news item,

A union representing federal scientists has launched a campaign targeting what it calls the government’s “worrying trend away from evidence-based policy-making.”

“If the science isn’t supported … then you’re going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,” Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Monday as the union launched a website called publicscience.ca.

The site aims to highlight science done for the public good — much of it taxpayer-funded and carried out by government scientists — and to “mobilize” scientists and the public to pressure politicians to support it. It features interviews with federal scientists about their work, along with interviews with science policy experts.

The other goal of the campaign is to create a more positive public image of federal scientists by highlighting their work, Corbett said.

He said what the public hears about civil servants these days is mainly criticism of their pensions and salaries.

The union represents 59,000 federal and provincial public servants, including 23,000 involved in scientific research, testing advice and other “knowledge products.”

As of 3 p.m. ET, Natural Resources Canada said it was preparing a response to the union’s news release.

I find this quite interesting not just for the science aspect but for what it says about how the union is positioning itself, i.e., as a voice speaking out for its members’ contributions to society rather than a voice stridently demanding more money and benefits.

As for the response promised from Natural Resources Canada on this union initiative, I’m waiting with some anticipation, given the recent kerfuffle over seeming attempts to muzzle scientists in that ministry as per my Sept. 16, 2010 posting).

The timing for this union initiative seems quite auspicious, or well-timed, given that this is Canada’s National Science and Technology Week (Oct. 15-24, 2010) and the Canadian Science Policy Conference is on from Oct. 20-22, 2010 in Montréal, Québec.

The union’s website is here at http://www.publicscience.ca. I notice that Adam Holbrook (a.k.a. J. Adam Holbrook) is featured on the front page. He’s a Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia), a member of the Advisory Committee for the Canadian Science Policy Conference coming up in Montréal, and a speaker at 2010′s public service science policy conference this spring (both conferences are mentioned in my April 22, 2010 posting).

Nanocrystalline cellulose interview with Dr. Richard Berry of FPInnovations

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) is one of the most searched items on this blog so it seemed like a good idea to send some questions about it to a Canadian company, FPInnovations, that has been a leader in  its development.  [Edited for typo, July 7, 2011] Dr. Richard Berry, program manager for FPInnovations very kindly answered. First a little biographical information,

Dr. Richard Berry is the manager of the FPInnovations Chemical Pulping Program and he has been the leader of the nanotechnology initiative at FPInnovations for the last several years. Dr. Berry is a key contributor to ArboraNano. His scientific accomplishments include work on the elimination of chlorinated dioxins and the development of a variety of bleaching technologies. Dr. Berry has overseen the industrial application of his numerous inventions. He is the author of more than eighty peer-reviewed publications and patents. The prestigious 2009 Nano-industry award from NanoQuébec was given to him for his exceptional contribution to the development of Nanocrystalline Cellulose. The initiatives Dr. Berry has spearheaded in recent years have allowed Canada to position itself as a world leader in the development of this new nanotechnology industry.

Now for the  interview:

Q: In light of the new Domtar-FPInnovations plant [mentioned here in my July 16, 2010 posting] which is going to be built in Windsor, Québec, could you tell me a little about nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC). I have looked at your information sheet which notes that cellulose is: milled then hydrolyzed with the NCC separated and concentrated so it can be treated chemically for new uses.  In layperson’s terms, what’s cellulose?

A:         Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on earth and is the major constituent of all plants; cotton is 100% cellulose. Cellulose is made of chains of glucose molecules and these arrange into amorphous (soft) and crystalline (hard) regions. These structures provide flexibility and strength respectively to the fibres that are made of cellulose.

The hard crystalline regions are separated from the soft amorphous regions in the process that we are using which also causes the separation of the crystallites in the crystalline regions. These crystallites are nanocrystalline cellulose and have a needle shape approximately 200nm in length and 10 nm in diameter

Q: What does hydrolyze mean, in simple terms?

A:         Hydrolyze in this process means that we break the bonds between the glucose molecules. This reaction occurs far more rapidly in the soft amorphous regions of the cellulose structure leaving the hard crystalline regions largely intact

Q: After [Edited for grammar, July 7, 2011] all this processing, do you have nanocrystalline cellulose and how would you describe what nanocrystalline cellulose is?

A:         The process is to produce nanocrystalline cellulose but many of the processing steps are to ensure that the process is closed cycle and that the acid used is recovered and that the dissolved glucose can be separated to make energy, ethanol or higher value chemical products.

Nanocrystalline cellulose is the basic physical building block of plants which therefore have used nanotechnology for eons. The crystallites are the reinforcement elements providing strength in wood, paper and fibres.

Q: Does the process use up the entire log or are parts of it left over? What happens to any leftover bits?

A:         We are starting from the bleached chemical pulp which is, to a large extent, cellulose. The left over bits have actually been processed as part of the chemical pulp mill processes. The acid used is recovered and reused and the sugars are converted into other products; in the demonstration plant they will be converted into biogas.

Q: I understand you won’t want to give away any competitive advantages but could you describe at least partially the sort of chemical processing involved for these new applications?

A:         In some applications, there is no processing needed at all. In other applications, the formulation used allows the NCC to be effective. In further applications, surface modification is required to maximize the properties.

Q: Is the new plant (Domtar-FPInnovations) meant to be used for producing nanocrystalline cellulose particles for shipment elsewhere? Or will there be work on applications using the nanoparticles? If so, on which application(s) are you concentrating your efforts?

A:         The plant presently is for producing various grades of nanocrystalline cellulose for shipment elsewhere. The applications are being developed with partners in the new industry sectors that we are targeting. Amongst others, we have partners for applications in coatings, films and textiles.

Q: Is FPInnovations involved with the ArboraNano Centre of Excellence programme and its efforts to encourage NCC use in industries not usually associated with forest products? What might involvement entail?

A:         FPInnovations is one of the founding members and had a significant role in setting up ArboraNano.  Our involvement presently is as a supplier of NCC through our pilot plant in Pointe Claire and as members of both the Scientific Committee and Board of Arboranano.

Q: Assuming FPInnovations is attending the 2010 TAPPI [International Conference on Nanotechnology for the Forest Product Industry] in Finland, can you give me a preview of the company’s proposed presentation(s) at the conference?

A:         Representatives of FPInnovations will be at the conference but our involvement will be limited because much of the material we have developed is proprietary to ourselves and to the partners that we have. Our focus at this stage is commercial development.

Q: What kind of research is being done on possible health, safety and environment issues with regard to NCC?

A:         From the very beginning of our project, 20% of our funding has been spent on these issues. We are glad to say that the research has shown that NCC is in the category of “practically non toxic”, and mammalian studies done to assess inhalation, ingestion and dermal risk have all shown the material to be in the lowest category of risk. These results show that the size of a particle is not a determinant of its risk but as with chemicals it is the specific material that is critical in determining toxicity.

Q: Are there plans, at some point in the future, to list NCC on Charles McGovern’s Integrated Nano-Science Commodities Exchange or will your product be listed on some other commodities exchange?

A:         We do not view NCC at the moment as a commodity; it is a very specialized group of materials. We hope it will take a long time before it becomes a commodity.

Thank you very much Dr. Berry.

On a related matter, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the documentation that the Canadian federal government provided in response to Member of Parliament, Peter Julian’s (NDP), question about nanotechnology funding from 2005/6 – 2008/9. The response from Natural Resources Canada highlighted funding provided to FPInnovations in fiscal year 2007/8 of $2,308,000 and in fiscal year 2008/9,  a further, $3,2570,000 for a total of $5,565,000. Natural Resources Canada did not fund any nanotechnology research in 2005/6 or 2006/7.

One final note, former president and chief executive officer of FPInnovations, Ian de la Roche, PhD, will be the keynote speaker at the 10th Pacific Rim Bio-Based Composites Symposium Oct. 5-8, 2010 in Banff, Alberta. (Thanks to Joel Burford at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures for the information.)