The Canadian BioEconomy – By the Numbers

  • Over 200 Canadian firms producing and/or developing bioproducts
  • Over 3,000 people employed; 54% were production workers or operators; and 27% were in R&D, engineering or lab technicians
  • 27 million metric tonnes of total biomass produced (11 million metric tonnes of agricultural biomass)
  • Agricultural biomass is used by 42% of bioproduct firms in Canada
  • $1.3 billion in bioproduct sales
  • $433 million of total sales was exports of bioproducts

(Bioproducts Survey, Statistics Canada, 2009)

Bioproducts are renewable products other than food and feed that are derived from agricultural, aquatic or forestry resources, or municipal wastes. In this section, you will find information on the types of bioproducts, their production process, as well as government initiatives in the bioproducts industry.

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Benefits to the agriculture sector

Combine harvesting grain corn for biofuel

The Canadian bioeconomy is filled with economic opportunity. The manufacturing of bio-based products offers farmers and processors additional markets for commodities and new products. Farmers may realize economic gains from finding new uses for ‘wastes' such as manure and crop residues, or from crops specifically grown to supply the bioproducts sector.

Bioproducts represent an opportunity to strengthen and diversify the agricultural sector through adding value to wastes, new crops development, specialized higher margin farm gate production, product diversification, added revenue streams, enhanced competitiveness, and improved environmental sustainability.

Product diversification within the farm gate has the potential to enhance the profit margin on each hectare of farm land. As farmers and rural communities seize bioproduct opportunities beyond the farm gate in pre-processing, processing and value-added activities, the development of adaptable entrepreneurial business models, such as co-operatives, can help to create new, profitable ventures. Bioproducts support innovation within the agriculture sector and align with market development and regulatory reform priorities.

A few Canadian examples include:

  • Transforming hemp and flax fibre into biomaterials for the automotive and construction industry;
  • Using crop residues to produce bio-based chemicals for household cleaning products;
  • Powering local communities using agricultural waste for bioenergy; and
  • Converting crop oils into biofuels to power road transportation vehicles.

Biomass: The essential building block of bioproducts

Biomass can be defined as living and recently dead biological/renewable materials from agricultural (plant or animal), aquatic or forestry resources including those from industrial and/or municipal wastes (source: The Manitoba Bioproducts Strategy).

In terms of agriculture, biomass can be obtained from a range of sources including traditional crops and purpose grown crops – the latter being crops grown with the sole intent of becoming feedstocks for bioproducts. It can also be obtained from crops being grown in areas not suitable for other feed and food crops or from waste streams such as crop residues (for example, straw and corn stover) and manure. In fact, many farms in Canada now have anaerobic digesters on site that are able to use manure to produce energy.

Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector is well positioned to explore new economic opportunities to produce biochemicals, biomaterials, biofuels and bioenergy by building on its large biomass and water resource base, long history and strength in genomics and plant breeding, sustainable crop production, diverse biomass sources, and efficient processing to meet high quality standards of diverse global markets.

The Biomass Inventory Mapping and Analysis Tool provides that information. Accessible over the Internet, it offers interactive queries and thematic maps that can guide users to sources in Canada of precisely the kinds and amounts of feedstocks they need for their processing plants.

Bioproducts through History

While bioproducts are often considered through innovative and emerging, It is important to note that humanity has turned to agricultural biomass to make useful products other than food and feed for thousands of years:

  • Linen textiles, derived from flax, were widely traded as early as 2,000 Before Common Era (BCE).
  • Straw has long been used in building materials (for example, thatched roofing or cob construction).
  • Ethanol has existed in some form since the creation of the first alcoholic beverages and the first internal combustion engine was designed to run on biofuel.
  • First diesel engine was designed to run on peanut oil.

Petroleum-based and other synthetic products are relative newcomers compared to bio-based products. It is only in the past couple of hundred years that the world's energy and materials needs have been largely met by non-biological sources, due to the availability and relative affordability of coal, oil, and natural gas.

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