May 18, 2018
BELLEVILLE - Before student researchers Dallas Bonner and Robyn Neri button up their lab coats and put on their safety glasses in Loyalist College’s Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis (ARC), they take part in a team meeting which outlines the day’s research goals and objectives.
Bonner and Neri, who are graduating from Loyalist this June, have been hired to work on a year-long applied research project with Province Brands of Canada, makers of alcohol-free cannabis beers and spirits.
“Our students have been working alongside bioprocess engineers from Province Brands of Canada, investigating an innovative brewing process using mature hemp stalks,” said Dr. Kari Kramp, Biosciences faculty and principal investigator at Loyalist. “This initial project is a beer made with hemp plant components instead of traditional grains like barley. It’s a fantastic experience for Loyalist students, as they have the opportunity to work on new product development while applying their knowledge in an experiential learning environment.”
In February 2018, Loyalist was awarded $660,000 in funding for the project through the Government of Ontario’s Colleges Applied Research and Development Fund (CARDF), administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) in partnership with Colleges Ontario. Funding provided through the CARDF program allows Province Brands of Canada to leverage $300,000 from OCE, with their contribution of $300,000 cash and in-kind towards the research and development efforts.
The research project aims to help Province Brands of Canada further develop and commercially scale-up their patent-pending process for converting cannabis plant components into an aqueous solution as a base for producing fermented beverages, including premium beer products. It is a significant contribution to Province Brands of Canada’s efforts to bring to market the world’s first beers brewed entirely from cannabis plants, instead of barley or grains.
“It’s very innovative and research intensive,” said Neri, a chemical engineering technologist and environmental technologist student at Loyalist. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. We have an idea, but it’s never been done before. We’re on the front line of this research and this kind of product. Everything about this experience is exciting.”
With the rapid growth of the cannabis industry, there is unprecedented opportunity for applied research, technology adoption and product development. Loyalist is the only college in Canada with a laboratory approved to conduct research with cannabis under the Narcotic Control Regulations, and the collaboration with Province Brands of Canada is a unique opportunity. This industry is highly competitive and Loyalist is pleased to work with companies such as Province Brands of Canada who are focused on differentiating themselves through innovative processes and product development strategies.
Bonner came to Loyalist’s Biotechnology program after graduating from the University of Guelph’s Bachelor of Science (BIOS) program.
“I look forward to gaining from all of the involvement this project has to offer,” he said. “Each member of Province Brands of Canada’s team is inspiring and they all have amazing experience and invaluable work history.”
This research initiative with Province Brands of Canada builds on Loyalist’s established 15-year track record of successful industry-College collaborations focused on natural products and clean technology. In addition to medical cannabis, the College has worked on hops projects with growers in Ontario for the past four years and is currently working with local craft brewers to support process optimization, quality assurance and new product development.
The ARC is a 1,800-square-foot state-of-the-art laboratory which provides industry with access to a hub of resources and expertise in clean technologies, including innovative supercritical carbon dioxide extraction and advanced analytical technologies for analysis of commercially relevant biologically active compounds, with applications in the food and beverage industry, functional food and natural health products, and medical cannabis industry.