Botaneco: 'Our technology unlocks new value for canola and aquaculture'

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Canola Salmon shrimp Aquaculture Protein Canada

How can a conventional oilseed be processed in a way that it delivers more valuable co-products? A Canadian company claims to have the answer.

Botaneco says that, using a novel processing approach, it can generate a canola derived protein concentrate product for high value species like salmon and shrimp.

“The conventional industry currently focuses on extracting oil from oilseeds like canola, but most of the players in the space are using processes that ignore the value of protein in the seed and limit its potential,” said David Dzisiak, chief operating officer of Botaneco.

Canola is rich in protein, but conventional processing approaches denature the seed’s proteins and destroy oleosomes, the oil storage structures inside oilseeds, resulting in commoditized canola oil and low-value livestock feed meal, he explained.

Conventionally produced canola meal contains more fiber as well, which makes it less energy dense and thus hard or impossible for a species like salmon to use as a feed ingredient; It also contains anti-nutritional factors (ANFs) such as glucosinolates, continued the COO.

“Canola is second largest oilseed crop in the world after soy. But the meal coming out of it is sold for about the lowest value possible today, with most of it going to the dairy cattle sector; ruminants can manage the fiber associated with canola meal,” he told FeedNavigator.

Water-based process

According to Dzisiak, Botaneco's water-based manufacturing platform technology unlocks new value for canola. 

“We wanted to pull ingredients out of canola and preserve their native quality and function. Our water-based process disassembles the seed, leaving the oleosomes and proteins separate and intact. The process runs at room temperature. It does not need solvents, and there are no chemical reactions.”  

The technology thus allows the developer to separate and purify the valuable lipid and protein components without destroying their structure, or functionality, rather than simply extracting commodity oil and by-products for use in feed for low-value markets.

“The process gives us some flexibility: we can either start with the intact whole canola seed or we can start with the defatted meal, upcycle that and pull out a high-quality protein concentrate.”

Anti-nutritional factors 

In older industry studies on canola-based protein concentrates, palatability proved to be a sticking point, due to the bitterness imparted by ANFs like sinapine and glucosinolates.

“Salmon are very taste sensitive, and palatability is a critical issue if you want to have good feed intake. ANFs have been lingering issues in prior versions of canola protein concentrates, and we were very aware of that. That is where the uniqueness of our process comes in. Firstly, it highly concentrates the protein to 75%, a level greater than that of soy or fishmeal. Secondly, we have reduced or eliminated ANFs: as some are water soluble, our water-based process simply washes them out. We also have other proprietary approaches that allow us to remove ANFs.”

Growth and digestibilty trials

Botaneco has been testing its canola derived protein ingredient in growth and digestibility studies over the past few years. “We are pre-commercial in terms of volumes, but we have completed five major feeding trials in salmon and shrimp."

The protein product was assessed at 10, 15 and 20% inclusion rates, with it showing excellent feed acceptance, salmon growth and weight gain, said Dzisiak.

The novel ingredient has a very well-balanced amino acid profile, and is a great starting material to build a ration around, added the COO.

The company is now starting the process of evaluating the protein concentrates externally. “We have signed several agreements with salmon and shrimp feed producing companies [in respect of such studies]. Those trials will start soon, and will further validate the work we have done internally.”

Commercial strategy 

Botaneco would look to supply the aquaculture sector in the Americas and southeast Asia from its production base in Canada. As far as the European market goes, it has another plan up its sleeve.

“The European market is so big in terms of salmon production that it really requires a local facility. The nature of our production platform means we could build a plant in Europe and use the domestic oilseed rape crop as the feedstock," said Dzisiak.

The move would be beneficial for both the developer and the region, he said. It would address the European demand for traceable, non-GMO, sustainable ingredients, and it would also reduce dependency on the import of soy proteins out of South America, while upcycling or improving the value of domestic oilseed rape. “It would take us around two years to build a commercial plant.”

“We have a good understanding of our production costs, so we know we can make a cost-effective protein. There is a lot of buzz around insect meal or single cell protein but, from my understanding, those protein sources are still priced higher than fishmeal. We will be able to price below fishmeal. At that price point, coupled with the nutrition profile of our protein concentrate, we believe it would be rapidly adopted into feed rations."

Management is looking to large private equity firms in terms of future investors in Botaneco. “Between food and aquaculture, we envisage a $1.5-2bn revenue opportunity for the company. We think we can really build something that has good scale attached to it, and we are interested in finding equity investors that have a long-term vison and interest in that kind of scale. As we prove out our platform, we believe we have a strong business case to present.”

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