Agrisoma signs off on UPM deal, expands production of feed and fuel oilseed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Agrisoma Biosciences
© Agrisoma Biosciences

Related tags: Soybean, Brazil

Agrisoma Biosciences is expanding plantings, production of the oilseed, carinata, after signing a long-term supply agreement with bio-refinery, UPM.

The Canadian company announced the deal this week with Finland's UPM to produce renewable fuels in South America

The oilseed, brassica carinata​, developed in Canada, will be grown as a second crop in winter by farmers in Uruguay, followed by Brazil and Argentina. The oilseed does not produce an edible oil, but has found a market in the biodiesel and bio-jet fuel sector. However, the crush also produces a digestible, protein by-product for use in animal feed.

“There is a lot interest in the alternative proteins, something that can be scaled,” ​Steve Fabijanski, Agrisoma CEO. told FeedNavigator. “We fit that pretty well.”

Carinata can be planted outside the typical growing season, he said. That fact improves the sustainability of production for the feed and fuel producing plant and gives it a low indirect land use change (ILUC) rating, added the CEO.

In South America, the oilseed can be planted in late April or early May and be harvested in late October or early November, he said. “That gives them time to get soybeans into the field as well,”​ he added.

By using land already in production, the company is seeking to avoid concerns of deforestation or new land being opened up for crop growth, he added.

Market, production expansion

Initial winter season plantings in Brazil and Uruguay are around 25,000 acres, said Fabijanski. That amount is expected to yield about 1 ton per acre.

Previous test production of the oilseed has found that the varieties on offer in South America can yield more than that, he added. The strains are about 46% oil and 54% protein meal, which can be used in animal feed.

“We’re looking at building that out for next year with significant expansion,” ​he said. “We’re looking at an aggressive ramp – it has performed well as the winter crop between the soybean crops.”

The company has also established a relationship with producers in Uruguay, said Fabijanski.

When looking at the potential for production in South America, the company sought areas where there were already well-defined agronomic systems that would be interested in a crop that could fit into a rotation cycle with soybeans, he said.

Carinata production can help break a disease cycle potentially generated when growing soybean crops back-to-back and return carbon to the soil, he added.

“You need to put down a cover crop, and [planting carinata] does so without having to do anything to the soybean growing season – you can go in and do it as a second crop.”

International expansion 

Fabijanski said the company was looking at expanding into other markets were it sees a good fit.

Potential growing regions include Australia, Europe, and the US, he said. “We’re currently out marketing for winter production in Florida, Georgina, Alabama and Mississippi we’re looking for growers now."

The protein meal was approved for use in beef cattle diets​ by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year. Additionally, it has some use approvals in Canada and the European Union.

“We see a pretty significant market for the grain coming out of Europe because they’re usually oilseed short,” ​he said. “There is a growing market segmentation for non-gmo – there is a clear segmentation of the EU feed market.”

There also is a demand in China for a non-biotech protein meal that can be used in feed, he said.   

In the European market the company is looking dairy and poultry rations, he said.

The protein meal generated in crushing the oilseed offers a product that is similar to canola meal, he added. 

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