Canadian Plastics

USask researchers looking to make bioplastics from pulse starch

The University of Saskatchewan project has received $2.5 million in funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, and will be led by Dr. Yongfeng Ai.

July 7, 2021   Canadian Plastics

Photo Credit: Elena Schweitzer/Adobe Stock

A researcher at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has been awarded $2.5 million through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to improve the processes of transforming starch from so-called “pulse seeds” into new bioplastics and high-value biomedical materials.

The funding for Dr. Yongfeng Ai is part of Saskatchewan’s Strategic Research Initiative Program, which announced its theme of Pulse Starch Utilization in 2020.

Ai’s research hinges on pulses, which are the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family, which includes chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, and beans. According to USask officials, pulse starches display a wide variety of traits that make them unique from other botanical sources – they can develop into biogels of various physical forms; tolerate high-temperature processing; and are a good source of resistant starch, which is a new type of dietary fibre and prebiotic. The strong gelling and film-forming ability of pulse starches can make them useful in bioplastics and biomedical materials, USask officials said, such as packaging materials, fabric fibres, hemostasis materials, and wound dressing.

More importantly, the derived bioproducts are highly biodegradable and compostable, which can make them a sustainable option for producing easily disposable products in the future.

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The research will be conducted in USask laboratories, and in conjunction with USask’s Crop Development Centre, Departments of Animal and Poultry Science and Chemical and Biological Engineering, Food Pilot Plant, Fermentation Pilot Plant, and Bioprocessing Pilot Plant; Saskatchewan Pulse Growers; Saskatchewan Agri-Food Innovation Centre; University of Manitoba; Alberta Food Processing Development Centre; and the Canadian International Grains Institute.

Other USask researchers involved in the project include professors Dr. Michael Nickerson (PhD), Dr. Tom Warkentin (PhD), Dr. Bunyamin Tar’an (PhD), Dr. Bishnu Acharya (PhD), Dr. Darren Korber (PhD), Dr. Takuji Tanaka (PhD), Dr. Denise Beaulieu (PhD), and Dr. Malcolm Xing (PhD; University of Manitoba).

The aim of Saskatchewan’s Strategic Research Initiative Program is to advance priorities within the agriculture industry and to foster the development of Saskatchewan’s agricultural value-added sector. Funding is awarded annually by the Agriculture Development Fund Advisory Committee.


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