SASKATOON — Eight University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers have been awarded $1.3 million by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for state-of-the-art equipment to support leading-edge projects in human health, food security, environmental protection, public safety and computer technology.

“This critical investment provides the cutting-edge tools our researchers need to advance a range of exciting and innovative projects that hold promise to improve the lives of Canadians,” said USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “These advanced tools will help our talented researchers become leaders in their fields as we work to address global challenges in areas such as food and water security.”

CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) awards were announced Aug. 12 in Edmonton by federal Science and Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan, and include the following USask recipients:

•   Treating HIV: Linda Chelico, microbiologist in the College of Medicine ($213,000) aims to develop a new therapy for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Saskatchewan’s HIV infection rate is among Canada’s highest. Chelico’s grant is for high-resolution instrumentation essential for designing and selecting new compounds that enable human enzymes to alter the genetic information of HIV, rendering the virus incapable of replication.

•   Restoring the environment: Matt Lindsay, geochemist in the College of Arts and Science ($125,000), aims to reduce the environmental impact and financial liability of oilsands mining. The CFI grant will fund a mine waste sample preparation and analysis suite that enables researchers to focus on the geochemistry and mineralogy of waste materials, providing data that will help restore land capability to pre-mining conditions.   

•   Conserving wildlife: Philip McLoughlin, biologist in the College of Arts and Science ($125,000), aims to improve northern wildlife surveying for conservation and food security. A new ultra-fine-resolution imaging system, coupled with USask expertise in advanced computing, will enable researchers to remotely collect timely and precise data on the species, location, number, and habitat of large mammals. The accurate data will help in formulating strategies for conserving wildlife that are a vital food source for northerners.

•   Improving cryopreservation for organ transplantation: James Benson, a biologist in the College of Arts and Science ($162,000), is working on improving technology to safely freeze biological material (cryopreservation) over long periods at extremely cold temperatures, as a solution to the worldwide shortage of tissue and organs for transplantation. The equipment he acquires will provide critical experimental information on ice formation and chemical damage to cell-based models during freezing, helping to develop optimal cryopreservation protocols.

•   Enhancing global food security: Byung-Kook (Brian) Ham, a biologist in the College of Arts and Science ($225,000), is researching ways to enhance global food security and Canadian agriculture through breeding crop plants that are better at acquiring mineral nutrients and using them more efficiently at times of environmental stress. A confocal microscopy platform will provide high-resolution live imaging of cells in plant vascular systems, enabling him to analyze molecular signalling between roots and shoots about nutrient demands. Ham holds the Research Chair in Plant Molecular Signalling, Root-Soil-Microbial Interactions at USask’s Global Institute for Food Security.

•   Making roads safer: Alexander Crizzle, School of Public Health (158,000): Making Canada’s roadways safer and saving the health-care system millions annually is the goal of Crizzle’s project, which will establish Canada’s first cutting-edge research facility for assessing and rehabilitating high-risk drivers. Two driving simulators (a car and a truck) will be used to assess at-risk drivers, develop evidence-based protocols, and create novel interventions that improve their driving performance. The project will also test novel vehicle technologies including design elements and new software such as crash-avoidance systems.

•   Managing toxicological risks: Markus Brinkmann, School of Environment and Sustainability and a faculty member with the USask Global Water Futures program ($114,000): With rapidly changing environmental conditions greatly affecting the processes that move contaminants through aquatic systems, Brinkmann’s goal is to understand and manage the toxicological risks to aquatic organisms, and ultimately humans, on a river basin scale. The award will fund instruments to quantify concentrations of contaminants in the environment and study their uptake and spread within aquatic organisms, including the processes that actively transport and biologically transform contaminants within their bodies.

•   Improving computer chip technology: Li Chen, College of Engineering ($177,000), aims to improve the reliability of silicon chip technology devices such as computer microprocessors, implanted medical devices, and aerospace instruments, which frequently have errors induced by high-energy particles from space. His lab is acquiring a pulsed laser system that can effectively simulate radiation effects by injecting faults into integrated circuits, contributing to effective testing of mitigation measures undertaken in designing equipment.

CFI’s JELF awards fund up to 40 per cent of a project’s total cost. Researchers also rely on support from provincial governments, universities, and in-kind support from vendors for the equipment.


Toronto, Ontario, August 6, 2018 —Puratos Canada, the Canadian arm of global Belgium-based ingredient supplier, Puratos, is working with the global team to bring its passion for great-tasting chocolate with a sustainable future to cocoa-producing regions by growing its Cacao-Trace program. 

The Cacao-Trace sustainable cocoa sourcing program is not only about sustainability but is also about bringing the passion and commitment that Puratos has for providing great-tasting, high-quality chocolate to the industry. The unique focus on taste can only be achieved by being truly sustainable.

After the successful introduction of Cacao-Trace in Vietnam, Ivory Coast and the Philippines, Puratos recently launched the program in Papua New Guinea this past June. Its fifth region, Mexico has now started to ferment with Cacao-Trace standards and its first chocolate will be produced before the end of 2019.

“The Cacao-Trace program goes far beyond the average industry standards for sustainable chocolate by creating value throughout the supply chain, starting with the cocoa farmers down to customers,” says Liesbet Vandepoel, Director of Marketing for Puratos Canada. “We are there on the ground, alongside farming communities to coach farmers to grow higher-quality cocoa and give guidance to run plantations in a more sustainable way.”

Where the chocolate industry traditionally focuses on an increased quantity of dried cocoa beans, Cacao-Trace takes a different approach. Similar to wine, properly controlled fermentation is the key to great tasting quality chocolate. 

Based on years of research, expert fermenters set new criteria for the fermentation process.  They collect the finest fresh beans and take control of the natural fermentation process in post-harvest centres to let the beans’ original taste potential develop in the best possible way. 

Closely monitoring the whole process, they adapt the fermentation sequence, time, moisture and temperature to result in different chocolate flavours made from the same beans. As fermentation is an essential step to produce delicious chocolate, this makes the difference between average and superior quality. 

The Cacao-Trace program has all the elements of sustainable certification programs such as farmer field training, fair pricing and diversification of the farmer’s production and revenues. But, Cacao-Trace does not stop there. Additionally, every year, farmers receive an added Chocolate Bonus. Per kilo of Cacao-Trace chocolate sold, C14¢ (10eurocents) goes to a Chocolate Bonus Counter which is redistributed every year entirely amongst the cocoa farmer community.

The Cacao-Trace chocolate offered by Puratos includes Belcolade and Carat; both available in Canada. Belcolade, the real Belgian chocolate, is one of the finest chocolates available on the market today while Carat offers a range of compound chocolate coatings.  

Puratos aims to inspire at least 50 per cent of its customers to switch to Cacao-Trace chocolate solutions by 2025. By this time, they are also looking to set up two new post-harvest centres in cocoa-producing regions yearly, thereby also considerably growing the number of farmers they support.


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