Technological watch

Scientist Receives Million Dollar Grant to Transform Pulses into Bioplastics

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researcher Dr. Yongfeng Ai (PhD) has been awarded $2.5 million through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to improve the processes of transforming pulses into and high-value biomedical materials.
This research will bring us closer to a number of the goals outlined in Saskatchewan’s Plan for Growth. These include our targets to process 50 per cent of Saskatchewan pulse crops in the province and increase value-added agriculture revenue to $10 billion,” said Saskatchewan minister of agriculture, the honorable Dave Marit.
The funding is part of Saskatchewan’s Strategic Research Initiative Program, which announced its theme of Pulse Starch Utilization in 2020.
This project will build the university’s reputation as one of the leading research institutions, working to highlight Canada’s innovation ecosystem on the global stage,” said USask vice-president research Baljit Singh.
Pulse Starch Properties Useful in Bioplastics
Pulse starches display a wide variety of traits that make them unique from other botanical sources. They can develop into biogels of various physical forms, tolerate high-temperature processing, and are a good source of resistant starch ? a new type of dietary fiber and prebiotic. The strong gelling and film-forming ability of pulse starches can make them useful in bioplastics and biomedical materials, such as packaging materials, fabric fibers, hemostasis materials, and wound dressing.
More importantly, the derived bioproducts are highly and compostable, which can make them a sustainable option for producing easily disposable products in the future.
As a faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the Ministry of Agriculture Endowed Research Chair in Carbohydrate Quality and Utilization, Ai will explore these new applications for Saskatchewan pulse starches, and streamlining the conversion processes from newly harvested pulses, including peas, faba beans, lentils and chickpeas, to high-value food, bioplastic and biomedical products.
Research to be Conducted in USask Laboratories
The research will be conducted in USask laboratories, and in conjunction with USask’s Crop Development Centre, Departments of Animal and Poultry Science and Chemical and Biological Engineering, Food Pilot Plant, Fermentation Pilot Plant, and Bioprocessing Pilot Plant; Saskatchewan Pulse Growers; Saskatchewan Agri-Food Innovation Centre; University of Manitoba; Alberta Food Processing Development Centre; and the Canadian International Grains Institute.
The aim of Saskatchewan’s Strategic Research Initiative Program is to advance priorities within the agriculture industry and to foster the development of Saskatchewan’s agricultural value-added sector. Funding is awarded annually by the Agriculture Development Fund Advisory Committee.

Publication date: 07/07/2021

Omnexus (news)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.