Reimagining Oilseed Processing

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When you ask Calgary-based Botaneco Inc.'s founder and CEO James Szarko about the future of Canada’s oilseed and plant-based protein sectors, his face instantly lights up.

“We’ve got a huge opportunity here in this country when you look at oilseed processing and plant-based proteins,” said Szarko. “And with increased investment from partners like Protein Industries Canada (PIC) and meaningful collaboration from all sectors of the Canadian economy, the sky really is the limit.”

When you look at some global statistics it’s tough to argue with Szarko’s optimism.

As the world population continues its march to over 9 billion by 2050 and the global middle class rapidly advances, innovative, value-add companies like Botaneco are poised to take advantage of the increased demand for healthier diets made with natural ingredients.

Using its patented, water-based and eco-friendly process for separating oil bodies (oleosomes), protein concentrates and isolates from oilseeds like canola, safflower and hempseed, Botaneco has created a unique, sustainable delivery system for food, feed and personal care products like moisturizers and sunscreen.

And with the $5.3 million co-investment announced last June from PIC, they’ve been able to accelerate the commercialization of their products for distribution to global markets.

“We’re extremely proud to have been PIC’s first co-investment and understand and embrace the responsibility we have to turn that investment into new jobs, new technology and new opportunities for the entire Canadian economy,” said Szarko. “Looking specifically at oilseeds, there is a real opportunity here to transform the way they’re processed and target higher value markets.”

Started in 2013, Botaneco currently employs 24 people at its head office and two operating facilities in Calgary as well as its U.S. personal care sales office in New Jersey. Since its inception, Botaneco’s mission has been to create healthier and more affordable food, feed and topical beauty products.

“If you look at traditional oilseed processing, it’s been primarily focused on the lowest value markets,” said Szarko. “We’re reimagining the processing of oilseeds to target high value markets. This will create opportunity for Canadian agriculture by transforming traditional processing using our agri-innovation to create new value that will positively impact people, our agricultural community, economies, and even our planet.”

Szarko believes that one of the biggest benefits of partnering with PIC is the real collaboration it has sparked between government, industry and world class research centres.

“I really think we’re breaking down the silos that used to exist throughout the ag value chain. We’re starting to realize that we can all benefit by working together. That’s just a huge, positive change that’s making these huge transformations possible in the industry,” said Szarko. “And the collaboration just isn’t happening within agriculture, but is also bringing together experts from all five innovation superclusters to make each other stronger and more competitive.

According to Szarko, the continued investment, collaboration and innovation all point towards the Canadian oilseed and plant-based protein sectors becoming global powerhouses in the years ahead.