Alberta Farmers and Oil Producers are Our Inspiration

Albertans are a tough breed.

We are a land of ranchers, roughnecks, foresters, and farmers.

We have tilled the earth through unforgiving prairie winters and we have thrived while doing it.

Our beautiful prairie landscape is painted yellow with budding canola.

We were inspired by the true grit of Albertan farmers who stand up to any challenge. This is iGEM Calgary's contribution. This is yOIL.

The Problem

Canola oil is one of Canada's leading exports. In 2017, the Canadian grown canola contributed $26.7 billion to the Canadian economy each year, including more than $250,000 jobs and $11.2 billion in wages .

However, there is a threat.

The Green Seed Problem

As canola seeds mature, enzymes break down the green chlorophyll pigment resulting in a mature brown seed. The "green seed problem" arises when canola plants are exposed to frost, drought or other inclement weather before maturation is complete. The chlorophyll degradation pathway is suspended and the seed remains green.

"Green is the difference between profit and loss."
Craig Shand

What is so bad about that?

Farmers lament the fact that their green canola seeds have to be sold at a discount price. Thus, a farmer like Craig Shand is forced to go from $10 per bushel to $7 per bushel on a hard earned harvest.
Excess chlorophyll in canola oil causes the oil to spoil faster, have a bitter taste, and a low smoke point. Downstream, oil crushers need to spend more money to remove chlorophyll from the canola oil in order to have a viable consumer product. This process is costly, and oil is lost in the process.

The green seed problem is a leech on the canola industry, stealing money out of the hands of farmers and oil producers. With the same grit and dedication of our hard working Albertan farmers, we developed yOIL.

The Solution

yOIL is a multi-faceted attack on the green seed problem.

The system utilizes water-soluble-chlorophyll binding proteins emulsified in water droplets to remove chlorophyll molecules from oil. The captured chlorophyll will then be repurposed into pheophorbide, an experimental photosensitizer with potential as an anti-fungal agent.

To address ambiguities that arise when farmers take their seeds to be graded, our team developed a standardized seed grading platform, lovingly called "Mean Green Machine" which automates the grading process. We took the Mean Green Machine (MGM) to The Canadian Grain Commission where they gave us vital feedback to help move MGM closer to a fully-implemented product.

Inclement weather is what causes green seed, and knowing the weather lets farmers make crucial decisions regarding their crop. We cannot control the weather, but we can create tools to predict it. After all, everyone could use more Sunny Days. Based on Recurrent Neural Networks and Principal Component Analysis, Sunny Days is a weather predictive algorithm capable of predicting the weather 180 days into the future with a mean absolute error of 2.0 degrees.

An All-Encompassing Solution to the Green Seed Problem

We have worked tirelessly to bring yOIL to fruition.
We have submitted 28 new parts to the Biobrick registry, created 7 models which informed our project design and held over 35 meetings with stakeholders, not to mention the innumerable number of hours in the lab (plus an extra 8 to travel to Boston).

After all is said and done, it is our privilege to present