Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

February 18, 2009 14:26 ET

Federal Investment in Atlantic Research Will Help Expand Potato Industry

FREDERICTON, NEW BRUNSWICK--(Marketwire - Feb. 18, 2009) - The Government of Canada is creating new economic opportunities in Atlantic Canada by investing $5.3 million in a BioPotato Network that will work to develop and harness new markets for potato farmers. The funding was announced by MP Mike Allen (Tobique-Mactaquac) on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

"This Government supports research and innovation that delivers real results for our farmers and for all Canadians," said Mr. Allen. "This project will bring together some of the best and the brightest minds from governments, academia and industry to harness the full potential of the potato in terms of our economy, health and environment."

The network will focus on five areas: value-added uses for the potato, health and pharmaceutical products, dietary properties, potato-based plastics and insect control. This research will help generate new jobs for Canadians, create new health benefits for Canadians, and produce a new generation of more environmentally-friendly plastics.

"Our Government wants to help farmers succeed, and a big part of that success depends on investment in the agricultural industry to help it adapt and expand during these challenging economic times," said Minister Ritz. "This network will give potato farmers the competitive edge that they need to succeed in their sector, which will in turn boost their bottom line, and as a result, our economy."

Across Canada, the potato industry is worth nearly $6 billion to the national economy and creates more than 30,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas. In 2008, Atlantic Canadian farmers produced more than 1.7 million tonnes of potatoes.

"We have been dedicated to getting the best out of potatoes since we developed and released our first potato variety in 1951," said Jacques Millette, Research Manager at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton. "We are excited to be part of this collaborative effort to broaden this exploration into so many different areas and with potential benefits for so many people."

Funding for this three-year project is being provided through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP), a federal funding program designed to integrate Canada's talent from universities, industry and government in order to stimulate creativity, leverage resources, reduce costs and accelerate progress towards commercialization of bioproducts and bioprocesses.

Led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the BioPotato Network will bring together 12 organizations and 32 scientists including AAFC's Potato Research Centres in Fredericton, Guelph and Lethbridge, BioAtlantech, P.E.I. Food Technology Centre, McMaster University, the University of Guelph, Dalhousie University, the University of Toronto, the University of Prince Edward Island, the University of New Brunswick, Holland College, the Potato Innovation Network Pin2020 and the National Research Council's Institute for Nutrisciences and Health.

For additional information about ABIP, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/abip.


BACKGROUNDER

THE BIOPOTATO NETWORK

The BioPotato Network will focus on five areas of research that will give potato farmers a competitive edge and improve their bottom line:

Commercializing Potato Extracts

Extracts from potatoes can be turned into functional food and nutraceutical products with the potential to provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Scientists will search for more of these extracts and develop ways to commercialize these discoveries, including new processing methods.

Healthier Potato Varieties

Researchers will develop new potato varieties that provide consumers with greater control over their diet and health, including varieties with lower Glycemic levels that would allow diabetics to add potatoes to their diets without the fear of a rapid elevation of their blood sugar levels.

Pharmaceutical Uses

Researchers will investigate new ways to use starch and other compounds in potatoes as additives in the processed food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

New Generation of Bioplastics

Potato starch-based polymers and blends are currently used to make bioplastic, a new generation of material that can reduce the environmental impact of plastics. Scientists will work on improving potato-based bioplastics to make them stronger and easier to use.

Biopesticides for Insect Control

Some wild potato relatives contain a natural resistance to insects. Researchers will identify these resistance traits and breed them into new potato varieties, reducing the need for chemical insect control.

THE AGRICULTURAL BIOPRODUCTS INNOVATION PROGRAM

The Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP) is designed to promote research, development, technology transfer and the commercialization of agricultural bioproducts, including biofuels, in Canada.

The program will benefit farmers by generating new agricultural knowledge and technology and facilitating its transfer to those that can commercialize these innovations for the benefit of farmers and others in Canada's bioeconomy.

The program supports the establishment, development and operation of bioproducts research networks that focus on:

- Feedstock production through the development of crop platforms and cropping systems suitable for conversion to bioproducts;

- Developing effective and efficient technologies for biomass conversion; and

- Product diversification through technologies relevant to production of bioproducts (e.g. industrial chemicals, biomaterials and health products).

For additional information about the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP) and other Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs, please visit www.agr.gc.ca.

Contact Information

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Media Relations
    613-759-7972
    1-866-345-7972
    or
    The Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz
    Meagan Murdoch
    Press Secretary
    613-759-1059