Camelina is an ancient oilseed species that had been largely forgotten in modern agriculture, said Francois-Karl Brouillette, vice president of scientific affairs at Biodroga, which is based in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec.
Long history of use
“It’s an ancient oilseed. We’ve dated the origins as far back as 3,000 years ago in Europe and Central Asia,” Brouillette told NutraIngredients-USA. “It’s not a new crop; we have just been rediscovering the oil for nutraceutical uses.”
Also referred to as wild flax, the plant had often appeared in flax fields where it was considered a weed, Brouillette said. The plant is hardy and is well adapted to life on the Saskatchewan prairie where Biodroga sources its raw material from a contract farmer. It’s a short season crop, requiring as little as 85-100 days to reach maturity. The plant requires little in the way of water and can grow well without fertilizer. And the harsh climate of the northern Great Plains exposes it to enough cold weather so that the seeds develop their maximum oil content, Brouillette said.
Brouillette said the oil has an especially high concentration of omega-3, 6, and 9, in a 2:1:2 ratio. It is also naturally rich in plant sterols and gamma-tocopherol which make it highly stable, which is a competitive point against flax oil, he said.
Food and supplement
Brouillette said Biodroga is aiming the oil both at the food and supplement markets, where it could compete with products such as flax oil softgels.
“I definitely think we will consider using it in the dietary supplement application. We are already formulating a soft gel. But perhaps its first application will be in food,” he said. “We have two products going to market, one in foods, the otehr a liquid supplement product,” products that the company has been developing for brand holders.
In food applicaitons it has some benefits. Its stability means it has a relatively high smoke point, which means it can be used for cooking with the exception of high temperature deep frying, Brouillette said. And it has a nutty, almond-like aroma and flavor, which contrasts well with some other high omega oils such as flax which tend toward the bitter or even fishy side, he said.
Supply not a concern
Brouillette foresees rising demand for the oil because of its advantages both as a supplement and as a food (among which, for some consumers, is the fact that it's non GMO). The ease with which the crop can be substituted for existing oilseed acreage means the company can easily ramp up production.
“We have our initial stock already in the form of seeds. The oil is cold pressed and filtered without any additional processing. We are looking at 15-20 tons of camelina oil to be sold in North American markets in 2014. I am very confident it will pick up and the sky is the limit,” he said.