Hemp, Sunflower and Flax to Produce Food and Fuel

Bio Energy Canada Magazine

Barrie, Ontario-based Oilseed Works Inc. has taken a unique approach to resolving the food versus fuel debate in Ontario. The company has developed two product lines called Hempola and Flour Power which produce both food and fuel from specific oilseed crops such as flax, sunflower and hemp.Using the oil derived from its feedstocks, the company produces biodiesel and mills the remaining materials to produce highly nutritious flour that can be used to make a variety of foods including breads, crackers, cookies, pasta, pizza dough and more. The company intends to sell its products to commercial bakeries that can use its flour in their recipes and its biodiesel in their delivery trucks.

In 1993, Greg Herriott, general manager of Oilseed Works, co-founded Hempola, the company’s primary trademarked brand of products derived from hemp crops. The Hempola line includes hemp flour, cooking oil, salad dressings, wood finish and germ. “As time went on it became apparent that what we perfected for hemp [was] also extremely useful for other oilseed crops specifically flax and sunflower,” Herriott said. “These are very much specialty crops as compared to the more conventional crops that are looked at for biofuels like soy and canola.” It was the overabundance of hemp oil left over from the production of Hempola products that led Herriott to look at different options for making use of the oil.

It also led to the creation of the company’s secondary Flour Power line of products. “It was really that predicament, that oversupply of oil, that led us into first creating wood polish finish from hemp oil in 2000-’01, and then we started looking at the viability of biodiesel from hemp oil in 2003,” he said.

Oilseed Works primarily uses flax seed to produce 150,000 litres of biodiesel per 1,000 acres and 300 tonnes of flour. Both flax and sunflower seeds are high in nutritional value, with flax seed containing as much as 75 per cent vegetable-derived Omega 3 fatty acids. The company also uses hemp seed oil to produce highly nutritious flour which contains 20 per cent dietary fibre and 40 per cent protein. Moreover, there are no known allergies to hemp and the seed is gluten free.

While Oilseed Works remains busy developing its Hempola and Flour Power products, the company is still looking towards future opportunities for oilseeds in the biofuels industry. “[The technology] is exclusive to biodiesel at this stage. [But,] if you look at, for instance, the hemp crops, there’s a substantial amount of cellulose produced from the stem cells of hemp that could lend itself to ethanol production,” Herriott said. “That’s a little bit down the road, first we want to focus on the food and fuel equation.”