Feds fund flax fibre fact-finding

A brain trust focused on development of value-added markets for flax and hemp fibre will get a federal investment of $9.6 million.

The Natural Fibres for the Green Economy Network (NAFGEN), led by Flax Canada 2015, is meant to connect “top researchers, industry and producers” to help create more industrial value chains by improving fibre crop varieties, technologies and processes, and by improving the products and chemicals made from said fibre crops and their “associated residue.”

“Working as a team affords the best opportunity for the industry to develop new and improved technology and products for both flax and hemp fibre, thereby enhancing the value of these two crops,” said Barry Hall, president of Flax Canada 2015, in a federal government release Wednesday.

Flax Canada 2015 is an initiative of the Flax Council of Canada, set up to support the value-added sector for flax with an eye on “whole-crop utilization” — that is, putting the entire plant to food, feed, fibre, health, and/or industrial use.

NAFGEN, the government said, is “working towards breeding better varieties of flax and hemp, and they’re solving problems with harvesting, processing, storage, transportation and grading.”

Other partners in NAFGEN include the Alberta Research Council, Biolin Research, Composites Innovation Centre Manitoba, FPInnovations, Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation, Lanaupole Fibres, Manitoba Zero Tillage Research Association, McGill University, Natural Step Canada, Ontario Hemp Alliance, Parkland Crop Diversification Foundation, Queen’s University, Schweitzer-Mauduit Canada, Tekle Technical Services, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Toronto, the University of Saskatchewan and Wheatland Conservation Area.

The government’s funding for NAFGEN will flow through its Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP), which backs research networks that include universities, industry and government to streamline research, development and commercialization of bioproducts and bioprocesses.

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