This week’s guest commentary comes from Don McCabe, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
New market opportunities are developing for Ontario farmers in the bioeconomy. OFA directors saw these opportunities at work when they recently toured the Sarnia-Lambton area to learn more about the benefits of the bioeconomy to the long-term sustainability of Ontario’s agriculture sector.
In order for bioeconomies to bring extra value to the market, local feedstock sourcing and logistics has to be linked with innovative technologies for production of products for local to global markets. Profitability is achieved through recognition of the full value chain. Economics is the start, but environmental benefits active at the farm gate to the consumer are available. New jobs and community development initiating from local activity finish the three legged stool of economic, environmental and social value.
OFA is particularly interested in the potential for its members to tap into a growing opportunity for crop residue usage and new crop options. Biomass is the term used to define residues or purpose grown crops. Depending on the technology present in the area, local biomass will be used for composites, sugars and/or energy. Ontario farmers need to prepare for meeting their local market demands. Growing purpose grown crops like miscanthus and switchgrass are worth investigating by growers looking to diversify their crop options. Residue collection from corn and wheat fields, while ensuring soil health, will be needed from high yielding fields.
Sarnia-Lambton is the current hotbed for bioeconomy development. BioAmber has started construction earlier this year for a world class, commercial scale, bio-based succinic acid plant at Sarnia. One reason for the choice of Sarnia by BioAmber is based on meeting their needs for sourcing renewable feedstocks from area farms. Succinic acid is used in a variety of everyday products. Having bio-based products will help reduce our dependency on petrochemicals for many common consumer products.
BioAmber is just the start. We expect there will be many other opportunities. Due to transportation logistics and feedstock availability, other regions of the province will be engaged. That’s where we know OFA has an important role to play to ensure Ontario farmers can be ready to take part in the next wave of the bioeconomy.
The OFA is working with government on several fronts to bring bioeconomy opportunities closer to Ontario farmers. We’re ensuring the rules and regulations established for bio-based companies that are looking to set up shop in Ontario are conducive to new business. We work with government policymakers in Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill on policy that ensures Ontario farmers are recognized for their role in adding value to the biomass marketplace.
We need to work with our members about what and where the opportunities are for getting in on the bioeconomy. We will be stepping up our communication to OFA members about the new markets that are opening up in this new segment of Ontario’s economy.
Agriculture runs on innovation. The opportunities opening up for our sector in a bioeconomy are further proof of the inherent ability of agriculture to find and fill the needs of our citizens for food, fibre, fuel, jobs and consumer materials.