Australian company beats Cargill, Dow to deliver first omega-3 plant oil

[Australia] Australia’s Nufarm, has been working on an omega-3 yielding canola plant for years and is harvesting its first crop at farms in the US state of Washington.

The Melbourne-based company plans to sell its first output to the aquaculture industry in 2019 pending US government approval. The company harvested 1,600 hectares (3,954 acres) of canola plants in the United States this month that have been infused with algae, and will plan commercial volumes from the 2018-2019 crop cycle.

The harvest heralds a new era for the aquaculture industry, as salmon farmers will be able to purchase oil rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fatty acids sourced from plants instead of fish oil. Nufarm’s DHA-rich AquaTerra product will be targeted at aquaculture feed suppliers Benita Boettner, global lead for the company’s commercial strategy told Undercurrent News.

“We can deliver against our vision of being a very economically viable option,” Boettner said. “We developed this product so that it has a very nice omega-3 profile with significant long and short chain fatty acids and a really nice omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.”

Developers of the new technology are keeping the exact proportions of their omega-3 profiles under wraps. Cargill is ramping up trials of its hybrid canola on the other side of the Rocky Mountains from Nufarm’s first crop, in the US state of Montana.

Cargill and Dow Chemical are betting big on the Great Plains and western Canada, an area where over 100 million acres of cropland are dedicated to canola. The crop, now the second most widely used vegetable oil in the United States, yields 45% oil, compared with just 18% from soybeans, according to Dow Chemical.

The companies working on scaling an omega-3 source from GM crops will compete with developers of algae-based omega-3 product from a fermentation process. The companies working on this process include Bunge and San Francisco start-up TerraviaArcher Daniels Midland, and Royal DSM in conjunction with Evonik Industries.

Nufarm got the upper hand in the quest to become the first company on the planet to sell the new crop due to the extensive research carried out by Australia’s Commonwealth and Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) into algae strands. CSIRO invited Nufarm to work on an algae strain rich in omega-3 several years ago.

The Australian company has become an international player in farming, operating on several continents and earning AUD 3.11 billion ($2.42bn) in revenue in the financial year ended July 31, 2017, a 12% gain on the previous year.

Nufarm grew its omega-3 rich canola crop under the notification scheme of the US Department of Agriculture, a special status that allows an experimental genetically modified crop to be grown without any risk of cross contamination from nearby farms or from shared storage or processing facilities. While most of the company’s R&D work has been carried out in Australia, Nufarm is targeting further expansion in the United States.

The Australian company is actively seeking partnerships with farmers and oil crushers to scale up its AquaTerra product. It is also developing an omega-3 oil that is intended for direct human usage.


View original article at: Australian company beats Cargill, Dow to deliver first omega-3 plant oil





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