If you haven’t yet heard of Ahiflower® oil, you soon will. It is becoming increasingly popular throughout North American, Europe and the UK for its high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and is used in dietary supplements, skin care products and even dog food.
What few realize is that every drop of Ahiflower® is produced in Canada – in Kensington, Prince Edward Island.
“Whenever you see that name and the registered trademark, you know it came from PEI,” says Andrew Hebard, Founder, President and CEO of Natures Crops International, which discovered, bred and now owns the intellectual property for Ahiflower®. “Even though we grow the plant in different places around the world, the seeds are all taken to PEI and processed there. The island has become the epicentre of all of our operations.”
If Hebard has his way, the company’s Canadian oilseed crushing facility with 20 or so employees will soon become a large, high-value manufacturing facility.
“What you’ll see in the future is an integrated business that takes in Ahiflower® seeds at one end and has a whole stream of different products coming out the other – foods, cosmetics, nutrition supplements and so on.”
There’s just one problem. When they press the seed for oil, there is a huge amount of leftover substance called “presscake” that, according to Hebard, has been his company’s biggest limitation to growth.
“We produce a lot more presscake than oil. So finding a market for the presscake really unlocks a huge amount of demand and scalability.”
That’s where Natural Products Canada comes in. It recently awarded the company $250,000 to develop its proof of concept to transform presscakes into high-value consumer products.
“We’ll use the money to explore different processing techniques and equipment in the lab, to make sure we can get the exact results we want,” explains Hebard. “For example, if we’re turning the presscake into a fine powder for smoothies, we want to make sure it has a consistent nutritional profile. The funding will also help us with hiring, including a Product Development Manager to focus exclusively on the composition and applications for presscakes.”
Hebard expects to complete the project comfortably within the 18-month timeframe, after which they plan to scale up and invest in new equipment, technology and staff
“If we can do this, we can grow our processing capacity, our revenue and the number of staff we employ. It won’t be a flick of a switch, but I’m very confident this project is feasible, and the NPC funding has really been instrumental in unlocking the opportunity within it.”