Manitoba Receives Government Boost for Bio-product Development

Ottawa-based research firm Abacus Data says businesses should put more emphasis on finding and promoting green products. It has recently conducted a six-part pill on Canadian consumer attitudes and behaviour. Results showed that 58% of the respondents thought of themselves as 'ethical' consumers, particularly those over 45 and women.

Additionally 72% added they would spend more for a $100 item if they knew it was ethically manufactured. The survey shows that more and more Canadian consumers as with consumers world-over are becoming aware of green products and the need to endorse them.

Ethical products received another boost in Canada when the Manitoba government announced that it plans to spend $20 million over the next 10 years to help fuel the development of more eco-products made hemp and wheat or flax straw. The bioproducts strategy is part of Premier Greg Selinger's plan to boost materials made from agriculture produce. The funding which includes $4 million was set aside this year for product-development projects.

According to Selinger millions of tonnes of agricultural and forestry products are produced in Manitoba each year, creating an abundant supply of biomass for the production of biofuels, biomaterials and biochemicals. He said research and development initiatives in the province are already turning hemp, flax and wheat byproducts into things like paper, insulation, roofing tiles, biodegradable food packaging and ultra-lightweight components for the aerospace and transportation sectors.

"Manitoba is ideally positioned to capitalize on the emerging bioproducts revolution and to secure a leading position in the new bioeconomy," the premier said. "This strategy will identify opportunities and guide our efforts to further develop a vibrant bioproducts industry that creates more green jobs and green products to add to the diversity of rural economies and help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions."

There are more than 30 companies in the area that makes such products, they employ about 800 people in total and generate about $1 billion in annual revenues. The proposed bioproduct strategy aims to double these numbers over the next 10 years.

Riverton-based ErosionControlBlankets.com is one of the rural companies that plans to take advantage of the new government funding. The firm has developed a biotic earth product that can spur growth of new vegetation on bare soil. It is made of wheat straw, flax fibres, peat moss and growth stimulants that can be mixed with water and sprayed. Although  biotic earth products now account for only about 10% of the company's yearly sales the number could grow to 50% within the next year or two.

A government spokesperson said the funds will be administered primarily by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. They'll be allocated mainly as grants or loans under existing MAFRI programs such as the Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative and the Rural Economic Development Initiative.