A PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan is the only Canadian to receive a prestigious fellowship from a U.S. agricultural research organization.
Suneru Perera has been awarded 150 thousand dollars over 3 years to expand the uses of canary seed.
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has announced 17 fellowship awards.
The U.S. Foundation was created under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill to support food and agriculture research to meet the needs of a growing global population that will reach 9.7 billion people within 30 years.
Perera wants to develop value-added applications for canary seed, which is mostly used for bird seed.
Research at the U of S Crop Development Centre was instrumental in having hairless canary seed approved for human consumption by Health Canada in 2016.
The hairs on the bird seed variety cause itching in humans.
Perera’s academic supervisor at the U of S, Michael Nickerson, says the fellowship points to the excellence of students entering programs at the University.
Perera and Nickerson are working on separating the fractions, starch and protein, and optimizing the market value of these products from canary seed.
Nickerson says these ingredients are more valuable than the crop and researchers will look to the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre to start integrating them into products.
POS Bio-Sciences in Saskatoon, a bioprocessing, research, development and commercialization company that employs
Perera as a scientist in its protein and carbohydrates divison, supports his decision to pursue a PhD and is his industry partner for the fellowship.
POS president Rick Green says there is a growing demand for protein so the canary seed research is timely.
He calls it a great opportunity to advance Saskatchewan crops and develop important technology to produce ingredients.