Join Dr. Jan Slaski, Expert Researcher of Plant Sciences in the Bio Industrial Division at InnoTech Alberta, at Inventures 2023 to learn the purpose of growing these crops, their statuses in Alberta and Canada, and what research InnoTech Alberta conducts on them.

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Canola (Brassica napus)

Canola is one of the world’s most important oilseed crops; the only “made in Canada” crop. Canola is used for the production of food products, like cooking oils, margarines, shortenings, salad dressings, baked goods, and protein-products. It’s also used for the production of biofuels, animal feed, and industrial goods, like inks, plastics, cosmetics, paints, adhesives and sealants.

With 18.2 million tonnes being produced on 21.2 million acres in 2022, Canada is the world’s leading canola producer, followed by China and India. About 90% of the canola grown in Canada is exported. Alberta produces 5.6 million tonnes of canola on 6.5 million acres, which makes up about 30% of the Canadian acres.

InnoTech Alberta is a leader in crop protection and plant growth efficiency research. We are pioneers in controlling canola diseases, particularly in generating the performance data needed to create genetics, products, and sustainable agronomic practices.

Faba Bean

Faba bean (Vicia faba L.) aka fava or broad bean

The Faba bean is a part of the legume family that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, meaning no nitrogen fertilizers are required. It’s cultivated for human consumption and livestock feed due to its high protein, high fiber, and low-fat content. It’s also used for green manure by organic farmers, due to its high nitrogen content.

It’s primarily grown in Europe, East Asia, Latin America, and North Africa. It was originally brought to Alberta in 1972 to supply the hog feed market but has more recently been grown for human consumption. Alberta grows over 40,000 metric tonnes of Faba beans on 30,000-50,000 acres. Most of it is exported to Middle Eastern countries and Mediterranean countries.

InnoTech Alberta researches how this crop adapts to Alberta’s soil, climate, and its beneficial effects in crop rotations.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.)

Flax is a food and fiber crop grown in temperate climates since the beginning of civilization. Flax seeds are about 45% oil, 25% protein, and high in omega-3s, so they’re used for foods, livestock feed and technical applications, like oil extracted for linoleum flooring and paints. Fiber extracted from the stems has been used for millennia in textile applications and paper production.

With about 500,000 tonnes produced on over 1 million acres, Canada is the largest producer of flaxseed in the world, representing about 40% of world production. For reference, China, USA and India, together, account for 40% of world production.

Alberta is the second largest flaxseed producer in Canada, after Saskatchewan, accounting for about 10% of the national acres.

InnoTech Alberta supports the Canadian flax industry by developing more efficient cropping practices and evaluating how newly bred cultivars adapt to the local climate.


Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)

Barley is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates. It’s grown for food, livestock feed, malt, bio-products, beer, whisky, malted milk, malt vinegar, and bread. With 157 million tonnes produced per year, it ranks fourth among grain cereals, behind maize, rice and wheat.

On 1.5 million acres, Alberta produces over 4.5 million tonnes per year, accounting for over half of Canada’s crop.

InnoTech Alberta conducts research on barley’s tolerance to cold, drought, new herbicides and fungicides, and its value as a rotational crop.

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.)

Industrial hemp is one of the oldest multipurpose crops. It’s been grown for fiber, food, livestock feed, and bioactive compounds in various climates for 10,000 years. Hemp is a close cousin of cannabis, also known as marijuana. However, it contains very little – less than 0.3 % – of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical that gives cannabis its effects.

Hemp grain is used for human consumption. It contains a balanced omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, nine essential amino acids, and various minerals and vitamins. Hemp stems contain two types of fiber used by the textile, construction, paper, and biocomposite industries. Specialized low-THC hemp varieties are grown for non-narcotic cannabinoids – CBD, CBG, and CBN – and terpenes, which exhibit health benefits.

With 80,000 to 100,000 acres planted annually, Canada is a global leader in the production and exportation of hemp for grain. By 2030, economic contribution of the Canadian hemp industry is forecasted to reach $1 billion. Alberta accounts for 30-45% of the national acres, with a strong representation of hemp grown for fiber.

InnoTech Alberta is a global leader in hemp research and development, offering a holistic “seed to final product” program that includes hemp genetics and breeding, best-management agronomic practices development, fiber processing and evaluation, and fiber-based product development.

Industrial hemp