New U of G Centre Will 'Revolutionize Agriculture'

October 03, 2008 - News Release

The University of Guelph today officially opened the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre. Here researchers will revolutionize the use of agricultural products, turning soy, wheat, corn and other crops into everything from car parts and furniture to fuel.

"This discovery centre is a nexus where physical and engineering scientists and plant biologists will work together on viable solutions to some of today's most pressing problems," said president Alastair Summerlee.

"Our reality now is global warming, growing environmental threats and depleting petroleum resources, and we must develop sustainable alternatives. Just as we have so many times in our 134-year history, Guelph has once again broken the trail and is leading the way."

The Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre will produce greener bioproducts to substitute non-renewable materials in many manufacturing sectors, consumer goods and services. This includes turning crops into renewable biofuels to run vehicles and into resins, polymers and tough fibres for the production of biobased materials, which will reduce dependency on petroleum materials.

These biomaterials can be used for everything from car parts and furniture to building materials to new kinds of rubber. And unlike current products, plant-based biomaterials are more eco-friendly, and the crops produce them are completely renewable.

"It’s a whole new way of looking at agriculture," said centre director Prof. Amar Mohanty, an international leader in the field of biomaterials. He holds the $3-million Premier’s Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation, part of the Ontario Research Chairs program.

The bioproducts centre contains machinery and equipment that can turn plant material into components in the manufacturing process. For example, residues and waste biomass from soy, corn and wheat become plastics used to make bumpers, seats, dashboards and other automotive parts. Prototypes of many of the products have already been produced.

The centre also supports innovative crop utilization initiatives such as learning how to use corn husks, stalks and leaves as well as straw, switch grass and even wood chips to make bioproducts. U of G researchers are also creating new industrial crops that can be turned into composite materials.

"Bioproducts are the wave of the future," Mohanty said. "Not only can they create environmentally sustainable alternatives, but they also have the potential to energize the economy." Economic benefits range from crop diversification and increased use of marginal lands to the creation of new products and industries, he said.

"This new centre will help Ontario facilitate a transition to a biobased economy, and it positions Guelph as a world leader in the field of bioproducts."

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982/

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1