Alberta’s ambition to attract more value-added industry got a boost Wednesday with the unveiling of a facility that zaps plants such as flax with microwaves to extract compounds used in cosmetics, foods and nutraceuticals.
Radient Technologies, an Edmonton-based biotechnology firm, has launched a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in south Edmonton, capable of processing up to five tonnes a day of biomass.
Radient uses patented microwave assisted processing developed by Environment Canada to extract valuable compounds from plants, including algae, flax and rosemary, to sell to makers of pharmaceuticals, foods, cosmetics and biofuels.
Put simply, microwaves are directed at plant material. Water molecules within the biomass absorb most of the energy so pressure builds up within the cells and the ingredients are driven into a surrounding solvent.
The process is faster, cheaper and more efficient than conventional extraction, which involves soaking, heating and filtering, said Steven Splinter, Radient’s founder and chief technology officer.
The 27-employee production facility comes after 13 years of testing and piloting which saw the company move from Vancouver and Toronto to Edmonton in 2009.
“We landed in Edmonton for a number of reasons, not the least of which was some available funding,” Splinter said.
“There’s proximity to biomass, availability of highly qualified people and quite a growing cluster of bio-based companies in Alberta that can serve as potential partners.”
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