Cultivating the Agriculture Innovation Sector in Guelph

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Mirexus Guleph Grand Opening Mayor Cam Guthrie, Malcolm Campbell, MP Lloyd Longfield, Trevor Jones
Mirexus grand opening in Guelph. From left: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Malcolm Campbell, MP Lloyd Longfield, Trevor Jones.
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Profiles on 3 growing companies that call Guelph home. Mirexus Biotechnologies, TrU-ID and Quinta Quinoa

Guelph is a hub of science and innovation in agriculture and boasts the largest concentration of agri-innovation research and technology expertise in Canada, with almost 7,000 people employees, a number that has grown 17.1 per cent since 2011.

Here are snapshots of just three of Guelph’s innovative companies.

Mirexus Biotechnologies

The company was founded in 2008 by four researchers at the University of Guelph who discovered that non- GMO sweet corn naturally produces a nanomaterial called phytoglycogen.

The tiny, uniform spheres are edible, water soluble and biodegradable, making the substance a natural biopolymer that can safely and effectively: deliver anti- aging formulas into the skin; enhance the absorption of nutrients; and deliver medicines to highly targeted sites of disease.

“We are selling a natural ingredient to a world wanting natural products,” said CEO Phil Whiting. Mirexus has attracted $20 million in private investment and built a headquarters in Guelph that includes a production floor, research and development labs and testing facilities.

Mirexus maintains a close relationship with a broad range of researchers at
the University of Guelph, and the university is a constant pipeline of talent, too. Innovation Guelph, along with the municipal, provincial and federal governments, have all been important supporters, says Whiting.

Early success has come in skin care products and multiple research projects are underway with the biggest skin care providers in the world. The market opportunities in food and pharmaceuticals are even bigger.

“In the long run, there are many, many billions of dollars in these markets. The range of opportunities are massive and global. It’s easy to imagine this enterprise growing to a very large operation.”

TRU-ID

TRU-ID offers the world’s first biological ingredient authentication
and certification program based on DNA biotechnology. The company, launched in 2013 out of research at the University of Guelph, provides confidence to food and natural health product manufacturers, retailers, and consumers that ingredients are authentic and non-adulterated.

TRU-ID technology provides real- time testing using DNA barcodes and comparing them to a vast database of plant and animal sequences.The company collects and monitors the data to ensure validity.

In its early stages,TRU-ID took advantage of Innovation Guelph’s Fast Lane and Fuel Injection programs, and tapped into expertise and advise to find office space, develop marketing plans, and recruit an executive team.

“Their tools help people who are not trained in business to have confidence
in moving the research out of the lab and into a viable company,” says Amanda Naaum, senior research scientist. “The training and networking Innovation Guelph provided has led to important steps for our company.”

TRU-ID has focused in the natural health products sector, with clients including JamiesonVitamins and Nature’s Way, but sees applications for its technology in: probiotics; supporting sustainability in meat and seafood processing, as well as coffee and spices; helping farmers identify and combat pests; and reducing waste by finding the microbes that cause food spoilage.

“We have many options in front of us.”

Quinta Quinoa

Quinta Quinoa honours the ancient Inca history of quinoa and represents a major step forward in the local research and development of this SuperFood crop in North America.

Jamie Draves launched his company after falling ill with idiopathic pancreatitis in 2007. He lost a third of his pancreas and his doctors told him there was no solution except to take painkillers.

Draves decided to treat his condition with a highly restricted diet. Quinoa was a staple for him, so he sought to develop a superior crop. By 2011, and without any agricultural background, he was growing his own quinoa.

“This is a personal mission that I believe in and I have amazing people who work with me, support and assist me. It really takes a village to raise a quinoa crop.”

He has relied on Guelph’s deep agriculture expertise and innovation support, including numerous researchers at the University of Guelph.

Quinta Quinoa now grows in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan and has earned shelf space in Metro, Food Basics, Sobeys and Foodland, as well as selling directly to chefs and to food processors.

The company was part of a Guelph delegation at the Global Food Summit in Germany in March. It comes at the perfect time as Draves eyes heading into the export market.“It’s an opportunity to showcase and gain awareness of our quinoa and quinoa protein and to meet with investors and customers. It has all the feel of a jumping off point for us.”