Upcycling: Sustainable micronutrient fertilizer reaches commercialization

Regina / SK. (pic) A new CAD 19 million project by Protein Industries Canada and a consortium of companies will help Canadian farmers further improve their substantiality and reduce carbon emissions through the commercialization of a new micronutrient fertilizer.

Soileos is a sustainable, non-polluting, climate positive micronutrient fertilizer created from the upcycling of pea, lentil, and oat hulls – co-products from food processing. The use of Soileos increases crop yields and improves the health of soil, while also increasing revenues to both farmers and food processors.

AGT Food and Ingredients Inc. («AGT Foods»), Lucent BioSciences («Lucent»), NuWave Research, IN10T and Aberhart Ag Solutions are collaborating to scale and distribute this new product. The project includes the installation of a new manufacturing process for the production of Soileos in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, that, when completed, will produce up to approximately 6,500 tons per year of micronutrient fertilizer and create 25 jobs.

«Our Government is proud to support this partnership that will enhance the quality of Canadian food crops through the production of cost-effective and sustainable fertilizer alternatives. This project demonstrates how Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters are fostering innovation, creating jobs and helping our economy grow,» said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

«Fertilizer is crucial for the productivity of the Canadian agriculture sector. With the current disruptions caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Government of Canada is seeking to support cost-effective and sustainable fertilizer alternatives to help secure food supply chains. By investing in the commercialization of a new micronutrient fertilizer, we are helping farmers maintain their production to feed Canadians and the world, while reducing their environmental footprint,» said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

This new 50-50 join venture between AGT Foods and Lucent, which operates as AGT Soileos, will also lead to improved efficiency of the fertilizer, particularly a shortening of the reaction time required in manufacturing to bind the plant-based fibres to the micronutrients from hours to minutes, reducing energy and water usage, and an expansion of its availability across Western Canada.

«This project is an example of what happens when innovation and collaboration collide,» CEO of Protein Industries Canada Bill Greuel said. «From a chance meeting in 2019, to a pilot project that produced 1 kg of Soileos a day and tested the effectiveness of pea, lentil and oat hulls through 2020 and 2021 and now to full-scale commercialization, this project proves how important innovation is to the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of Canada’s agri-food sector, and the commitment of the industry to sustainability and the environment.»

Initial field trials of Soileos on broad-acre crops such as durum, lentils and peas demonstrated how Soileos transports zinc, manganese, and iron to plants – leading to improved protein content, yields and soil health, while increasing returns for farmers, minimizing environmental impacts, and bringing value to low-value by-products.

«AGT Foods is pleased to join with our partners at Lucent to announce the commercial production of Soileos. AGT is a value-added miller of pulse crops and other grains that produces fibre by-products. To use these by-products to produce a micronutrient pellet that assists farmers in boosting their yield while at the same time returning carbon to their soil and reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer application in the future years is ground-breaking innovation,» says Murad Al-Katib, founder, and CEO of AGT Foods. «As farmers meet the challenge of boosting the sustainability of their agricultural management systems, the smart use of fertilizer will be key to achieving meaningful reductions in carbon intensity of our cropping system.»

Says Michael Riedijk, Lucent BioSciences CEO, «The continued partnership with AGT Foods and Protein Industries Canada brings our vision to accelerate the transformation of agriculture to sustainability a step closer. We are excited to start commercial manufacturing in Rosetown for its location at the center of Western Canadian agriculture and the ‘can do’ spirit of the people and province.»

The addition of NuWave Research, IN10t and Aberhart Ag Solutions supports the scale-up and improves the effectiveness and availability of Soileos.

NuWave Research’s technology will help reduce the reaction time in making Soileos. The traditional process required a five-hour hold for the reaction; the application of the new technology will reduce the reaction time to minutes. This will allow faster production of more Soileos at much lower energy usage.

The inclusion of IN10T and Aberhart Ag Solutions will support the distribution and acceptance of Soileos amongst Western Canadian farmers, providing distribution and sales support.

«We are excited to be working with Lucent BioSciences, AGT and Protein Industries Canada to help bring this revolutionary product to the market. Fertilizer is a key proponent in the efficient operation of the Canadian agricultural sector, and helping to create an efficient, environmentally friendly, and obtainable solution is a privilege,» Greg Stromotich, CEO + Founder – NuWave Research Inc. said. «I am looking forward to seeing how this project can help Canadian farmers meet the ever-growing demands of our country.»

«Our focus at IN10T is bringing forward agricultural innovations. Soileos is a very innovative product and it’s exciting being able to test this product with Canadian farmers across our farmer trials network in real world environments to better understand product performance and product adoption,» Patrick Comte VP Canada of IN10T said.

«We are very excited to be part of this project because it advances good agriculture practices by upcycling a natural product, helping us grow more high-protein crops that a hungry world is looking for,» CEO of Aberhart Ag Solutions Dan Aberhart said. «The addition of Soileos to our network, creates a new opportunity for our farmers to add a product to their farming practices that supports the farmer’s profitability, the environment’s need for stewardship, and the consumers quest for a healthier food source.

Over the past three years, Protein Industries Canada and industry partners have invested more than CAD480 million into growing Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredient sector. The results of these investments include improved farming practices, increased sustainability and traceability and the production of new ingredients and food products. Cumulatively this will increase the choices available to Canadians on grocery store shelves, create jobs and improve the health of our environment. Protein Industries Canada’s goal is to grow Canada’s plant-based food sector to CAD25 billion a year by 2035, supported by 17,000 jobs.

About AGT Food and Ingredients

AGT Food and Ingredients Inc. (AGT Foods), majority owned by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, is a Saskatchewan-based global leader in plant-based proteins and value-added processing of pulses, grains, staple foods and ingredients for export and domestic markets. AGT Foods was founded on the principle ‘From Producer to the World’, buying pulses, grains, oilseeds and specialty crops from farmers around its facilities in Canada, Türkiye, the U.S., Australia, China and South Africa and processing and exporting its pulses, milled durum wheat and canola products, pulse ingredient flours, starches, fibres, proteins and extruded products and retail packaged foods to customers in over 120 countries around the world. AGT Foods operates a strong network of grain origination, processing facilities and a short line rail system in the heart of Saskatchewan’s canola, pulses and wheat growing areas.

About Lucent BioSciences

Vancouver-based Lucent BioSciences is developing sustainable solutions for crop nutrition that accelerate the transformation of agriculture to sustainability. Our technology is a composition of matter patent that describes the process of binding nutrients in bioavailable form to cellulose fibers in a way that prevents the nutrients from leaching into the environment, addressing a key shortcoming of many existing products. Our process upcycles low-value organic fiber – like pea and lentil hulls – into the substrate for our Soileos product. This approach creates a circular economy showcase, with food processing residues becoming fertilizer that will be used to help grow the next crop. Soileos increases soil organic carbon levels; improves soil health; does not leach or have run-off pollution; and offers increased yield and crop quality. By upcycling food processing co-products into Soileos, we help solve waste challenges and offer farmers and food processors additional revenue sources.

About NuWave Research

NuWave Research is a BC-based OEM company dedicated to providing industrial vacuum microwave solutions. NuWave’s patented Vacuum Microwave Dehydration (VMD) technology enables rapid precision drying solutions that preserve product nutrition profile, colour, and texture. NuWave’s technology also enables Microwave Assisted Organic Synthesis Reactions (MAOS) to reduce processing times for organic synthesis reactions.

About IN10T

IN10T is a digital agriculture company founded in 2016 that creates end-to-end, digital, and data science solutions for customers in agriculture and those investing in agriculture. IN10T helps clients unlock growth by focusing on product performance, farmer experience, go-to-market strategy, and digital innovation.

About Aberhart Ag Solutions

Aberhart Ag Solutions is a family-owned business with extensive experience in agriculture production. Focused on the values of trust and integrity, Aberhart Ag Solutions stands behind the products they recommend based on a foundation of agronomy and science. Serving all of Western Canada, Aberhart Ag focuses on building relationships. They are excited to introduce a low cost, environmentally friendly micro- nutrient fertilizer to farmers across the Prairies.