Investing Into the Creation of Low-cost, Solvent-free Canola & Hemp Proteins

Published: May 31, 2024

Investing Into the Creation of Low-cost, Solvent-free Canola & Hemp Proteins

A need for more sustainably produced food products calls for crops and innovative processes that positively affect the environment and reduce GHG emissions. To leverage this opportunity, Protein Industries Canada is co-investing into a new project with Blue Sky Hemp Ventures Ltd., Virtex Grain Exchange and Thar Process to advance Canada’s protein processing technology, create new high-protein ingredients, and support the commercialization of hemp and canola ingredients.

Using cutting-edge, sustainable, solvent-free technology, combined with Blue Sky’s unique ‘whole plant utilization’ model, the partners will produce high-protein canola and hemp ingredients for applications in food products that are expected to have a negative carbon footprint. These developments are expected to open new markets for truly sustainable baking products, plant-based dairy and meat alternatives.

“This project, led by Blue Sky Hemp Ventures, is a great example of how Protein Industries Canada is helping establish this country as a leader in sustainable processing technology and a supplier of high-quality ingredients,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “The commercialization of hemp and canola ingredients in a sustainable and cost-effective way is creating new economic value, and support for the project will help attract investment from international markets.”

“Canada is a leader in agricultural technology development. This innovative project will help to provide Canadians with more sustainably produced food choices while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the growth of our ingredient and value-added manufacturing sector,” said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The project focuses on demonstrating the commercial viability of this novel approach to recover the vast majority of oil without using potentially harmful chemicals such as hexane. By avoiding high temperatures and chemical treatments, the resultant meal can be fractionated into high-quality proteins and gluten-free flours at relatively low cost – all while sequestering CO2 through Blue Sky’s ‘whole plant utilization’ model. Working with strategic partners, the project will develop commercial-ready products customized for use in the alternative dairy, meats and baking sectors. This advancement of new canola and hemp processing will create new economic opportunities for Canada.

“There is massive economic potential for Canada in ingredient manufacturing. Through the development of new and sustainable technologies, such as this one, Canada will advance our ingredient manufacturing sector and reach our $25 billion opportunity,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “The Global Innovation Clusters de-risk Canadian innovation to help establish Canada as a leader in sustainable technology and a supplier of high-quality ingredients.”

More than $5.9 million is being invested into this project, with the partners investing $4.2 million, and Protein Industries Canada investing the remaining $1.6 million. The project will scale up CO2 extraction technology, with the project lead, Blue Sky, working to improve the process by testing the oils and assessing the technical and economic impact from hemp and canola crop inputs.

“Blue Sky is excited to commercially demonstrate this high-value project. We truly see this project as a win for farmers by adding more value to canola and hemp crops, to consumers by developing a new range of nutritious and environmentally sustainable ingredients, and to the planet by sequestering CO2 through our whole plant utilization model,” Andrew Potter, CEO of Blue Sky Hemp Ventures said.

Virtex processes and refines canola of which these processes are easily adaptable to hemp. Virtex has been working closely with Blue Sky for several years on refinery projects and will be providing high-fat canola meal for further processing regarding protein extraction.

“Virtex is massively happy and excited to be significantly involved on this project because of the positive, impactful and beneficial options that it offers to our environment and the Canadian food sector. We believe that this project will answer some questions surrounding crop sustainability and offer some solutions to issues related to adding value to canola and hemp,” Stanley Chukwukelu, Quality Assurance / Quality Control Manager of Virtex Grain Exchange said.

Thar will be providing the initial equipment for the project and will be working closely with Blue Sky to design a larger-scale system for deployment to large-scale oilseed crushing facilities as an economic alternative to current processes.

“Canada is leading the way in moving beyond hydrocarbon solvents and into upcycled technologies like supercritical CO2 extraction and we are humbled to play our role with our friends at Blue Sky and Virtex,” Todd Palcic, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Thar Process said.

Protein Industries Canada is one of Canada’s five Global Innovation Clusters. Protein Industries Canada and its members are working to embrace the $25 billion opportunity presented by Canada’s ingredient manufacturing, food processing and bio-product sector. Projects such as these add value to, and create new markets for, Canadian crops, generating local jobs and supporting new economic development in locations across Canada. More information can be found at

About Blue Sky Hemp Ventures
Blue Sky Hemp Ventures, founded in 2017 in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, is a private Canadian company at the forefront of whole plant utilization for hemp ingredients, cannabis extracts, and sustainable industrial products. Committed to sustainability and innovation, Blue Sky delivers high-quality wholesale hemp and cannabis products across North America and globally, contributing to a “Better World, Fuelled by Hemp.”

About Virtex Grain Exchange
Virtex Grain Exchange was founded in 2009, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is a corporation owned by over 80 farmers. Virtex is a value-added venture in which farmers grow, process and market non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil for the health food market in North America. Virtex also sells high-fat canola meal into the North American and Chinese markets. Its facility can process 2,500 tonnes of canola per month and is comprised of 45,000 square feet while operating a fleet of 21 railcars for oil distribution across North America. It prides itself on being the only farmer-owned corporation in North America that is fully integrated from farm to table with non-GMO canola to oil.

About Thar Process
Aquareyn through its subsidiary Thar Process, is a platform technology company that has been developing and designing applications and equipment solutions based on supercritical CO2.  From extraction to purification to drying to remediation – Aquareyn / Thar Process has done it all for the world’s most innovative pharmaceutical, food, CPG and chemical companies.  The company is based in a 78,000 ft2 Pittsburgh facility but provides service and support globally.