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BioFiber Industry Advancement Workshop 2005

On October 11th and 12th SaskFlax, in conjunction with Flax 2015 hosted the BioFiber Industry Advancement Workshop 2005 in Saskatoon. With an international slate of presenters the conference brought together all sectors of the fiber industry. The two days provided a unique opportunity to learn, connect, network and build upon the groundwork of one of the distinct pillars of the Flax 2015 Initiative: To enhance producer returns through straw utilizations. Funders for the workshop included Flax Canada 2015, National Research Council and SaskFlax.
Included is a brief synopsis of the presenters and their presentations.

1. Application of Fibrous Plants with a Special Reference to Composite and Paper, Ryszard Kozlowski et al, Institute of Natural Fibers,The European Co-operative Research Network on Flax and Other Bast Plants, Pozan, Poland: A European perspective of plant and cellulose fibers, the features of natural fibers, the uses of lignocellulosic fibers, the chemical compositions of various fibers, the current direction of the European Flax Breeding Program, the retting process, the utilizations of flax and an overview of future possibilities for natural fibers.

2. Heating with Alternate Fuels, Norbert Braymo, Braymo Energy Corporation: An overview of bio-energy, the natural advantages of biomass, the composition of various biomass fuel sources, a look at total provincial biomass feedstocks, harvesting methods, fuel mill and broiler installation, the future of bio-energy.

3. Bast Fiber Pulping, Wade Chute, Team Leader of the Pulp and Paper Forest Products Business Unit, Alberta Research Council, Incorporated, Edmonton, Alberta: Pulp markets and global production, agricultural production and strategic opportunities, pulping methods for agricultural fibers, case studies on refined bast fiber chemical pulps and flax mechanical pulp.

4. Second Harvest Paper Project, Valerie Langer: Details of The Second Harvest Paper Project whose goal is to decrease the amount of forest cut for paper production by helping develop a viable alternative fiber for paper (they envision papers will be blends of recycled, non-wood and FCS certified fibers) and details of the eco-energy footprint for pulp produced from a variety of fibers.

5. “Pulling the Chain”, Randall Goodfellow, Goodfellow Agricola Consultants, Inc.: A look at “green” design and construction practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of buildings on the environment and its occupants highlighting five broad areas that include sustainable site planning, safeguarding water and water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy, conservation of materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

6. ISONAT® Hemp Insulation, Gary Newman, Plant Fiber Technology Ltd.: An assessment of the market potential of natural fiber insulation, specifically Isonat®, a French manufactured thermal and acoustic insulation batt or roll for walls, floors and roofs made from hemp and recycled cotton.

7. BioMaterials and the Future Car –Challenges, Opportunities and the Path Ahead, Peter R. Friese, Auto 21 NCE & Scientific Director & CEO: An environmental scan of auto and agri-products sector and the steps to integrate these two businesses including the issues and barriers to new technology and the Auto 21 research program goals.

8. Commercial Application of Shives Beyond Kitty Litter, Steffen Preusser, Canadian Trade Commission Service, Canadian Embassy, Germany:  Outlines several options for “going up the value chain” for shives including fuel pellets, compost helper, growing medium, equine bedding, poultry bedding, construction and land barrier.

9. Flax Fiber Properties, Caroline Baille, Department of Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University: A study of European flax including technical flax fiber analysis, histochemical test results, the factors affecting tensile strength and the current work being undertaken including technical fiber properties and interfacial properties of flax with variables (oilseed versus fiber flax, flax varieties, amount of retting and location on stem).

10. Use of Bast Fibers in Industrial Non-Wovens, Patricia Annis, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA: A definition of a non-woven (a sheet or web bonded together by entangling or bonding fibers through mechanical, thermal or chemical means), including a comparison of non-woven and traditional fabrics, numerous examples of uses for non-wovens and an explanation of the manufacture of non-wovens including fiber selection, fiber preparation, web formation, web bonding and conversion.

11. Bio-Composites, Mercedes Alcock, Bio-Composite Project Leader, Composites Innovation Centre, Industrial Technology Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba: A look at current global trends impacting the use of bio-composites, industries with the potential to support the use of bio-composites, the Canadian Bio-Fiber Industry, and the Bio-Fibers Initiative and the end market opportunities for biofibres (composite parts in ground transportation and fiberglass reinforcement forms).

12. Taking Fiber Utilization to the Next Level, J. Hogue, Schweitzer-Mauduit Canada, Inc.: An overview of Schweitzer-Mauduit, Inc.,(an international, diversified producer of premium specialty papers and the world’s largest supplier of fine papers to the tobacco industry, conducting business in over 90 countries, employing 3800 people with operations in the U.S., France, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines and Canada), their Canadian operation, their flax straw purchasing requirements, understanding fiber basics, straw processing and opportunities for shives.

13. Straw Management and The Future of Flax Fiber Collection (A Work in Progress),Mark Strumborg, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Swift Current, Saskatchewan: A description of the problem of getting agricultural biomass with the potential for bio-energy or bio-based products to end users, the economics behind it, the challenge of straw harvest systems (including a comprehensive look at stripper technology), Prairie Harvest Systems Research and future plans (large scale demonstrations of straight cut versus stripper technology, the continued evaluation of biomass for thermal, physical and biological processes and the development of an optimized harvester).

14. Enzyme Development and Retting Hemp, Peter C.K. Lau, Group Head, Bioconversion and Sustainable Development, National Research Council, Canada: An examination of the balancing act between economic progress, environmental care and social responsibility in reference to bio-fibers, the need for enzyme retting versus chemical retting, the green advantages of enzymes, a look at the pectinase family of enzymes and “green” chemistry and advanced technologies.

15. Chemistry and Structure of Flax Stems – Relationship to Retting, Standards and Co-Products, Danny Atkins and Herbert Morrison111, Quality Assessment Research Unit, Russel Research Center, ARS-USDA, Athens, Georgia, USA, John Foulk, Cotton Quality Research Station, ARS-USDA, Clemson, South Carolina, USA, Roy Dodd, Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA: A synopsis of flax supplied natural fibers for the bio-based economy, industrial uses of flax fiber (including textiles, specialty papers, insulation, non-woven fabrics and composites), the opportunity (to support a flax fiber industry using diverse sources to supply total fiber for a high and consistent quality material for various industrial uses), the structural and chemical characteristics of flax, enzyme retting formulations, the development of standard test methods and the potential for value added co-products.

16. Crop Fibers Canada – A Catalyst, Alvin Ulrich, Crop Fibers Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: An overview of Crop Fibers Canada (a work in progress, a pilot plant with Phase 1 almost complete, an education center), the industry challenge (How can we break down naturally formed stems and stalks with a wide range of properties into consistent components [fiber, shive, hurd] that will have sustainable competitive advantages in the market place?), how Crop Fibers Canada can be a catalyst in attaining that objective.

The two day workshop was extremely well received with participants and presenters kept busy with a constant exchange of ideas and opportunities. Indeed it may well have been Peter Lau who best summed up the enthusiasm and optimism with which flax is seen in the emerging bio-economy when he said that he saw flax as “A Field of Blue Dreams.”