Research Partnerships and Innovation

Research Partnerships & Innovation


RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen serves up success with ‘From Lab to Table’ research recipe book

November 9, 2023

This is not your average cookbook – in fact, RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen’s (PRK) From Lab to Table is one of the first of its kind in Manitoba and features over 60 different applied research recipes developed in collaboration with various industry partners over the last eight years.

“This Culinary Research Review, in the form of a cookbook takes an engaging approach to sharing the outcomes of applied research conducted since PRK began collaborating with partners in 2014,” said Mavis McRae, Director of PRK.

“Recipe development is one of the best ways we can test out research results from food – eating and tasting it, and over the last eight years we have amassed a lot of recipes using innovative new foods. By compiling and sharing what we have accomplished, we celebrate the achievements of PRK and the partnerships with clients who have supported us to share these recipes. We hope this work inspire readers with ideas for new advances in food product development and culinary research.”

What makes this tasty and innovative work that takes place on the 11th floor of RRC Polytech’s Paterson GlobalFoods Institute unique is the interplay between PRK’s two mandates: to help industry produce new food products, and to train students to become tomorrow’s culinary industry and research professionals.

The research and recipe cookbook begins with a detailed retrospective history of Culinary Research and funding partnerships at RRC Polytech written by PRK Director, Mavis McRae. It showcases investments made by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Research Manitoba in providing valuable infrastructure and research grants to companies that have helped PRK become what it is today. 

The next pages are broken down into four recipe sections: Capacity Building Projects, Client Projects, Indigenous Engagement and Staff Picks. Each page that follows explains the history of various industry partnerships and features a comprehensive overview of the projects, objectives and the mouthwatering results in the form of recipes readers can try themselves!

“Each section of this book focuses on the specific ways our culinary research team and students have helped industry partners, and highlights the results our collaborations have achieved, while underscoring the opportunities these collaborations have created for students to gain hands-on skills in culinary arts and research.” said McRae.

Capacity Building Projects focuses on projects and recipes that served as the building blocks of the culinary research program. The capacity building projects helped generate awareness with internal and external partners of the PRK capabilities as research and culinary chefs. Partnerships include Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, Pea Tempeh – a student project to teach research methodology, Pulse Canada and Manitoba Agriculture and recipes range from a chicken pot pie with pinto bean crust, to tempeh nachos with a roasted corn salsa and lime crema, or for something sweet, a candy cane miso caramel popcorn or pistachio coconut crème pâtissière.

tempeh nachos with a roasted corn salsa and lime crema
pistachio coconut crème pâtissière

In the next section, Client Projects, explores the way PRK engages students and instructors on industry-initiated applied research projects that enhance their knowledge and expertise within an ever-changing industry landscape. It outlines the variety of ways PRK’s Culinary Research engaged with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using technology and knowledge to meet a client’s vision – from developing new projects and commercialization, to seeking new applications for ingredients to enhance consumer experience and meet new market demands.

Partnerships include Prairie Fava, Juno Food Labs, Big Mountain Foods and Richardson International and in this section there are recipes for any meal of the day – cinnamon toast pancakes with cereal milk whipping cream for breakfast, summer rolls with tamarind sauce or lentil perogies for lunch, and finally a dan dan noodle bowl or fried chicken for the finale.

In the third recipe section, Prairie Research Kitchen focuses on incorporating Indigenous knowledge and engagement in food development opportunities and training – a key strategic priority for the College. This chapter brings together projects PRK has worked on featuring Indigenous foods, businesses and projects involving the chef instructors and student chefs from the School of Indigenous, Education’s Culinary Skills program. It includes recipes for a wild blueberry sauce, three sisters soup with smoked duck and wild rice buttermilk pancakes and wild rice Bannock.

The final section of the book features the people and recipes that make up culinary research and RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen multidisciplinary team, complete with fun facts and quotes about the work and partnerships they care so deeply for that helped inspire the completion of this book.

“This innovative and tasty research recipe cookbook, From Lab to Table, is an important outcome of the Technology Access Centre Prairie Research Kitchen’s dissemination of knowledge gained through research to ensure economic prosperity for Canada and the future generations,” said McRae.

“The world of research is ever-changing – and for that reason, Prairie Research Kitchen will continue to adapt and grow in the years ahead. A lot of great ideas have started here, and we look forward to seeing the products of our creativity and collaboration hit grocery store shelves and reach dinner tables in the years ahead.”

The physical printed book isn’t for sale, however interested aspiring chefs can view the online version of From Lab to Table here. Copies of the book will also be used for special gifts, door prizes, and provided to partners who continue to support RRC Polytech.

RRC Polytech’s new TACAM Director seeks to reach new heights of innovation in aerospace and manufacturing sectors

October 18, 2023

RRC Polytech’s Research, Partnerships and Innovation team is pleased to announce Dr. Janfizza Bukhari as the new Director of the Technology Access Center for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM).

Dr. Bukhari will lead RRC Polytech towards technological advancements and the application of applied research in aerospace and manufacturing. She holds a Ph.D. in Electronic Engineering from Dong-A University, South Korea and has experience of leading applied research projects in aerospace and energy systems.

Dr. Bukhari firmly believes in the power of collaboration and is eager to engage with industry leaders, academia, government agencies, and the community to create a thriving ecosystem for aerospace and manufacturing innovation at RRC Polytech.  She believes in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment and aims to contribute to positive social change in the aerospace and manufacturing industry, and we are confident that her visionary leadership will enhance TACAM’s innovation and competitiveness here in Manitoba, and on a national scale.

Prior to joining TACAM, Dr. Bukhari has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Mérida Labs at the University of British Columbia, where she has been actively engaged with leading industrial partnerships including Vancouver International Airport, Rogers Communications, IndroRobotics Inc., Canada Post and Honeywell, to advance research on cellular enabled unmanned aerial vehicles. 

She has also recently contributed to a book on global sustainability, focusing on the research challenges and opportunities of zero-emission delivery for logistics and transportation.

Dr. Bukhari has prior experience of managing teams for developing solutions for remote monitoring of pipeline corrosion in real-time. Her work on an improved design of a prototype hand glove to translate sign language hand movements into speech, is a true demonstration of her dedication towards providing innovative solutions to the community.

 We are pleased to welcome Dr. Bukhari to RRC Polytech’s RPI team and look forward to the leadership and exciting new opportunities she will bring to these important sectors in Manitoba.

PRK Food Donation to Main Street Project tops 500 kg

October 16, 2023

This summer, RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK) challenged a group of Culinary Research co-op students to create delicious meals for some of our community’s most vulnerable, using only very limited ingredients – most of which may have been waste if solutions for repurposing weren’t discovered.

Their ability to repurpose perfectly good food generated through research projects and transform it into easy to serve dishes helped PRK eclipse a major milestone of 500 kg of food redirected to Main Street Project in an ongoing collaborative effort that helps feed the community while providing students with a valuable introduction to research. 

“In a world that still wastes 40 per cent of the food produced, it’s imperative that Prairie Research Kitchen leads by example to demonstrate strategies that everyone in the food value chain can use to impact that number,” says Mavis McRae, Director, PRK. “As researchers, we understand that several trials and scale-ups are part of the research process. However, by working together with our clients to repurpose food that is left over from our work but still good to eat and redirect it to people in need, we are proving that multiple objectives can be reached simultaneously.”

Taste, texture and visual appeal are constant considerations in food development projects, so an extensive trial and error process is often required by the researchers at PRK to develop new products, techniques and recipes. With the consent from industry partners, Pulse Canada, engaging PRK to undertake product development, the research team has committed to recovering edible, high quality ingredients from their projects and testing their creativity by converting them into pre-packaged menu items that Main Street Project can distribute to those in need.

Pushing PRK past the 500 kg mark in donations was a product integration-based project with Pulse Canada designed to maximize the use of pea fibre generated from the pea protein process and deliver functional benefits to new formulations such as water holding and texture.

The latest delivery to Main Street Project featured remaining pea fiber bread and pea fiber chicken deli meat being converted into tasty breakfast themed items including a sweet, French toast-style strata (a type of layered breakfast casserole), a savory strata, and a chicken sausage.

Chicken Strata Recipe

Yield: 1, 9” x 13” Deep Baking Dish

Allergens: Wheat/Gluten – Milk – Eggs – Sulphates

Ingredients                                                                                                              Quantity (g)        

Oil, canola
Onion, medium dice
Celery, medium dice
Bread, medium dice
Deli chicken loaf, medium dice
Butter, unsalted
Parsley, chopped
Chives, thinly sliced    

Optional: Cheese, grated


1.     Add oil in a medium saute pan. Add in celery and onion and cook on medium high heat for five minutes.
2.     Add sauteed vegetables to bread, chicken, and mayonnaise. Mix well.
3.     Whisk together eggs, milk, pepper, and water and pour over bread, chicken, mayonnaise, and vegetables.
4.     Mix gently until everything is combined.
5.     Rub butter on base and sides of a casserole dish.
6.     Pour bread and chicken mixture into casserole dish.
7.     Cover and refrigerate for 4-10 hours.
8.     Remove from fridge, top with parsley and chives and bake at 350°F for 45-55 minutes.
9.     Rest for 5 minutes and serve hot. 
Other Instructions
If desired, grated cheese can be added to the strata at the 45-minute mark of baking. Bake for 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

All donated food is not only safe and healthy but often transformed into elevated new items by student chefs through PRK’s Culinary Research co-op program. The project creates a fertile learning environment for the second year Culinary Arts students who are hired to take part, as it exposes them to a food science career path that many future chefs may not have known about or considered. Roxanne Kent jumped at the opportunity a few years back and is now working full time as a Research Assistant at PRK.

“This initiative challenges staff and students’ creativity and ability to create amazing menu items using limited resources – and it’s that innovative spirit that drives us as both chefs and scientists,” she says. “You learn the importance of documentation to ensure reproducibility; experience the rush of perfecting a formula, technique or recipe; and it’s personally rewarding when your hard work satisfies the client’s needs while helping the community at the same time.”

As the national association representing growers, traders and processors of dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas, Pulse Canada prioritizes sustainability in its vision to develop the future of food and partners with PRK to create marketable menu items that taste great and promote the nutritional and environmental benefits of pulses. Given their strong relationship and aligned values, Pulse Canada and PRK have worked together to redirect unused or left over food to Main Street Project for the last year and half, while still protecting all proprietary data. Previous donations included:

  • Mini meatloaves: ground beef mixture with black beans
  • Lentil breaded chicken: lentil flour, fully cooked breaded deep fried chicken thighs
  • Red lentil flour pumpkin muffins
  • Red lentil flour focaccia pizza
  • Pork soup with pork/okara meatballs
  • Red lentil pastry cups
  • Lemon blueberry ice cream
  • Plant-based coffee ice cream

“Our mission is to provide essential services to those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues in our community, so we are always searching for new partnerships, donors and volunteers,” says Jamil Mahmood, Executive Director at Main Street Project. “While elevating items for donation isn’t necessary, even small expressions of caring go a long way to positively impact the community we support, so we’re grateful for the continued support from Prairie Research Kitchen and its partners who are helping not only to feed but to change the perception of those who struggle.”   

Partnerships are the core of College success as they enable RRC Polytech to extend resources, leverage strengths, accelerate progress in innovation and research, and reach the community. Located on the 11th floor of the Paterson Globalfoods Institute in the heart of the downtown, the Prairie Research Kitchen is proud to continue its unique work as a Technology Access Centre while building relationships that help the College play a revitalizing role in the evolution of the city.

RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen named Associate of the Year by Food & Beverage Manitoba

October 12, 2023

The commitment that RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK) makes to support Manitoba’s vibrant food production industry, provide unique learning experiences to students and give back to the community was recognized last week with a prestigious award. On Thursday evening, Food & Beverage Manitoba hosted its first Harvest Dinner and Awards Ceremony since the pandemic and named PRK its Associate of the Year, proudly sharing the honour with Sobey’s.

The winner of the Associate of the Year award consistently provides exceptional value to Food & Beverage Manitoba members. Using a unique blend of food science and culinary arts, PRK’s team of chefs, researchers and students work together tirelessly to develop creative solutions that support food processors and food service providers. As a Technology Access Centre (TAC) PRK supports businesses through:

  • Applied research, including food prototyping, ingredient applications, food process modifications and consumer research trials.
  • Technical services such as student recipe development, food photography, trade show support and clinical trial prototypes and products.
  • Training on new ingredients as well as cooking or preservation methods emerging in the food and food service industries.

Since its inception in 2014, PRK has worked on over 120 projects with Manitoba and Western Canadian companies developing or refining their products for market and ensuring companies stretch their research dollars by accessing the eligible funding available for product development. PRK encourages companies to consider sustainability in all outputs of their operation – and by working with their clients to upcycle leftover ingredients, PRK has redirected over 500 kg of food to Winnipeg’s most vulnerable through Main Street Project over the past two years.

In addition to training the province’s future food product developers, operators, scientists, chefs, and bakers; developing an Introduction to Research program for students studying Culinary Skills through the School of Indigenous Education; and participating in numerous events, tours and outreach events; PRK team members also made time to sit on various student and industry panels, committees and advisory boards to help shape the future of the sector. 

Congratulations to the multi-disciplinary team at Prairie Research Kitchen for building strong relationships with industry, helping great food products and ideas reach the tables of consumers, and playing a role in creating jobs and economic benefit for all Manitobans.

About Food & Beverage Manitoba

Food & Beverage Manitoba (formerly the Manitoba Food Processors Association) is an industry-led, not-for-profit association launched in 1993 to help the province’s food and beverage industry achieve its full creative and competitive potential. Its mission is to provide members with services and resources that help them navigate opportunities and challenges so they can elevate and strengthen their businesses.

RRC Polytech leading conversion of diesel school buses to EV technology

August 29, 2023

RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre (VTEC) are creating a new way to fuel school buses in Winnipeg.

Partnering with Seven Oaks School DivisionNoble Northern and the Canadian Shield Foundation, RRC Polytech is leading the Electric School Bus Conversion project, which aims to convert diesel school buses into electric vehicles.

The benefits of converting just one bus in Seven Oaks fleet includes saving up to $11,000 in fuel costs, and reducing 20.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per school year (approximately 39 weeks).

This initiative will also demonstrate the advantages of switching to this technology, such as lower maintenance costs, and elimination of air and noise pollution. Additionally, the project will offer experiential learning opportunities for the students and staff who will work on the conversion process.

“RRC Polytech has been leading the way in EV technology for a number of years and we’re proud to work with our partners to expand the technology to different types of vehicles,” says Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Program Manager at RRC Polytech. “Reducing emissions and sourcing renewable energies for fuel is one of the ways we are hoping to make a positive impact on our environment and create a sustainable future.”

K-12 students who attend school in the Seven Oaks School Division will have the opportunity to learn about climate solutions when they take the bus to and from school, or on field trips.

“Seven Oaks is thrilled to partner with RRC Polytech, and thankful that the Honourable Ed Schreyer (founder of the Canadian Shield Foundation) initiated this project. We teach our students about the need for climate action. We need to walk the walk,” says Brian O’Leary, Superintendent for Seven Oaks School Division.

VTEC and RRC Polytech’s Transportation program department will work together to include student participation on the project and will provide the technical expertise and support for the conversion process. The College will also test and evaluate the performance of the electric buses in its MotiveLab™ facility.

Funding for the project was announced last month through the Manitoba Government’s Conservation and Climate Fund. The Province awarded RRC Polytech $150,000 for this project, and a total of $1.5 million for other projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions and creating green jobs.

RRC Polytech is no stranger to converting electric vehicles. In 2016, VTEC Partnered with Winnipeg Transit, New Flyer Industries and Manitoba Hydro to create an all-electric, zero emission public transit bus and in 2020 launched an Electric Bus Technology course, which focus on battery safety, electrical fundamentals. RRC Polytech also partnered with Frontiers North Adventures in 2021 to create the first EV Tundra Buggy to be used in Churchill, Manitoba.

More information about the project will become available as work begins

Welcoming RRC Polytech’s Growth & Development Advisor, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development

March 3, 2023

RRC Polytech would like to share we have completed the competitive selection process for the position of Growth & Development Advisor.

Please join us in welcoming Carley Misanchuk as the new Growth & Development Advisor, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development.

Carley joins us from the School of Continuing Education, where she held the position of Strategy Coordinator. Before joining RRC Polytech, Carley worked at Red Deer Polytechnic in Alberta, focusing on operational delivery and marketing.

Carley has always prioritized bringing teams together to harmonize efforts and build relationships. She values making meaningful connections and finding joy in the little things.

Carley fills her life with golfing, concerts, Blue Bombers football games, family time, and puppy snuggles, and in the winter, you’ll rarely find her without a good book and a warm cup of coffee.

Ready for take-off: RRC Polytech and StandardAero propelling to new heights of aircraft repair

February 7, 2023

A project testing new aircraft repair technology is about to take flight. RRC Polytech’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM) and StandardAero are collaborating to validate whether this new technology could be effectively implemented for repairing aircraft components.

Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) is a critical but costly measure for aircrafts, required after only a few years, with the body of an aircraft far outliving individual parts. With the shift to aerospace components increasingly being made from light alloys and the exceptionally high safety standards all aircraft manufacturers and MRO companies must adhere to, come additional challenges.

While light alloys allow for light-weight aircraft parts, they are highly susceptible to degradation and oxidization, which increases the need for costly maintenance and repair. Additionally, because the alloys are highly reactive, traditional methods of repair, like welding, are not viable options.

RRC Polytech and StandardAero, one of the aerospace industry’s largest independent MRO providers, are embarking on a year-long project to test and validate cold spray technology for repairing aircraft components. Along with validating the technology, includes the challenge of meeting Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) repair standards.

About cold spray technology

Cold spray equipment
Cold spray technology in action

Cold spray is an additive manufacturing process where metal particles half the thickness of a strand of hair move at twenty-three times the speed of sound, impacting to a surface to form a bond. This process occurs at a very low heat, unlike traditional welding repair.

TACAM brings experience in cold spray technology from ongoing projects, including a contract with the Government of Canada’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program to develop a light-weight coatings.

Leveraging TACAM’s experience and the long-standing relationship with StandardAero, the two organizations are aiming to reach innovative new heights of aircraft repair, continuing to propel Manitoba as a hub for aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

The cold spray project will take place at the Centre for Aerospace Technology & Training (CATT), co-located at StandardAero’s Plant 5 facility, engaging RRC Polytech researchers, faculty and students. It will be an opportunity for both the College and StandardAero to build in-house capabilities, provide training, and help foster technology transfer to support this method of MRO.

The project also represents a rich work-integrated learning experience for students to put their robotics skills into action, as the project will be taking place in a fully automated robotic cell. Students will learn about characterization of materials and OEM standards, test the cold spray process, and enhance their technical writing and project management skills.

RRC Polytech is known for getting its graduates hired by industry. And this collaborative project highlights the unique advantage of students working directly with researchers and industry partners to gain experience with new and emerging technologies, helping them develop in-demand, future-focused skillsets.

Along with providing highly skilled graduates, this project has potential for a broader impact across our province. RRC Polytech’s Research Partnerships & Innovation (RPI) enterprise, which includes TACAM, is strategically positioned to support small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) – that typically do not have the personnel or funding for in-house R&D – with technology adoption and innovation efforts. The new experience and capabilities developed with cold spray technology can be transferred to support SME partners in varying sectors across Manitoba.

For updates on this project and the latest RPI news at RRC Polytech, stay tuned to the Research blog, or subscribe to blog updates, here.

RRC Polytech one of Canada’s top research colleges

February 1, 2023

Partnerships propel polytechnic to 11th best in the country

RRC Polytech is once again one of Canada’s top research institutions, as announced last week in Re$earch Infosource’s annual ranking of the country’s top 50 research colleges. The College jumped three spots from last year’s 14th place position.

RRC Polytech comes in first place in the prairies in the Spotlight on College Research Activity – Medium Tier category, and third place for research partnerships nationwide. The College completed 93 applied research projects in the 2021 fiscal year.

“Partnerships are at the heart of everything we do at RRC Polytech. We work with industry everyday to come up with innovative, sustainable solutions to business problems. Thanks to the support from our partners in the community, industry, and government, we can continue to make positive change here in Manitoba and throughout the country,” says Jamie Wilson, Vice President, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development at RRC Polytech.

“This national recognition reinforces that ground-breaking work doesn’t happen in a silo. It takes a community of creative staff, students, and industry partners to achieve the results that place us so high on this list.”

An ongoing partnership between RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen and Prairie Fava, a Glenboro, MB-based food start-up, and Big Mountain Foods, a Vancouver-based innovator of plant-based consumer packaged goods that resulted in an award-winning product is just one example of the innovative collaborations completed in the last year. A recent building airtightness test at Gordon Bell High School completed by RRC Polytech’s Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) that will help the high school reduce energy costs by 50 per cent is another.

“It’s a particular point of pride that many of our applied research successes focus on sustainable initiatives,” continues Wilson. “It’s important we utilize our technology and expertise to not only create impacts in industry, but to work towards a greener economy. I look forward to continuing working with our partners to make a difference in Canada’s applied research scene.”

RRC Polytech’s Research Partnerships & Innovation enterprise has operated out of the College since 2004, providing industry partners with applied research, technical services and training in areas that align with RRC Polytech’s expertise, resources and facilities, and with regional socio-economic demand.

Uniquely qualified and ready to lead – introducing Dr. Jolen Galaugher

January 17, 2023

RRC Polytech is thrilled to introduce Dr. Jolen Galaugher as its new Director of Research Partnerships and Innovation (RPI). The RPI team works tirelessly to find solutions for today’s challenges – and those of tomorrow. Driven by the needs of industry and community, RPI fuels the reputation and success of the College.

Dr. Galaugher has a demonstrated track record of elevating opportunities for students to participate in solving practical problems, supporting entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses, and strengthening relationships with partners and funders across all sectors.

“Dr. Galaugher is a proven visionary leader and her passion for connectivity shone throughout the competitive hiring process,” says Jamie Wilson, RRC Polytech’s Vice President, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development.

“Her unique blend of post-secondary and private sector experience will increase the College’s award-winning applied research capacity and create new opportunities for organizations to access Manitoba’s top talent and our leading-edge facilities and equipment.”

She led business development, research commercialization, and partnerships strategy for the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Science in her most recent role as Director of Science Innovation. Her ability to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders advanced U of M’s research innovation across a range of disciplines and she leaves the faculty’s new Science Innovation Hub as her legacy.

As a former business owner and consultant, she also brings expertise in business development, contract negotiation, large bids and RFPs, project and stakeholder management, and partnerships strategy from her time in the healthcare industry.

She holds a PhD in Philosophy from McMaster University and is the author of an award-winning book in her field, while still making time to serve on various Boards and Committees both in the community and in Manitoba’s innovation ecosystem. She is a proud parent of two young daughters and enjoys riding sport horses.

Dr. Galaugher has dedicated her career to envisioning, building, and implementing high-impact initiatives, new programs, and partnerships that spark innovation and drive alignment between stakeholders. She is eager to begin building new relationships and start finding solutions for both the College and its partners in industry and the community.

“I’m immensely impressed with what RRC Polytech’s RPI team has built and look forward to working together to achieve our shared goals of accelerating applied research innovation in Manitoba and co-creating the workforce of tomorrow.”

By-product Baking Mixes Become a Reality at PRK

November 25, 2022

Proof is no longer exclusively in the pudding that the term upcycling is here to stay – it can now be found in a nutritious blueberry pancake or rich chocolate brownie made from a mix using saved coffee grounds and the remnants of brewing a cold beer. It may sound like sorcery but transforming these previously discarded by-products into tasty treats is not the work of a magician, but that of an entrepreneur.

However, he couldn’t have done it alone.

President of GroundUp eco-ventures, Shawn Leggett didn’t invent the idea of upcycling, but he did see an opportunity and had the time to do some research when his work in Alberta’s oil and gas industry slowed.

“People’s mindsets are shifting. They care about the future of the planet, they want sustainable food options and they’re willing to pay for it, providing it tastes great,” says Leggett.

After months of collecting waste material from local businesses, dehydrating it in his oven at home, and experimenting with recipes and processes, he was ready to take his creation to the next level.

But even with a solid concept, a passionate belief, and an unrelenting work ethic, Shawn needed expertise, resources and a facility, all of which he found at RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK).  

“We experimented enough to know we had something worth pursuing but going from a good idea to a great item is such a huge leap,” he says. “Time is money, so you want to move quickly but as a start-up actual money is still an obstacle – PRK offered us a cost-effective solution to professional research and development.”   

GroundUp eco-ventures enlisted PRK to support the development of an eco-friendly, locally sourced, high protein, instant pancake mix made with brewers’ by-products and a brownie mix made with used coffee grounds. 

Culinary Research Manager, Heather Hill jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate the transformative powers of her team and provide Shawn with a marketable product that would lead to a significant return on his investment.

Research Assistant, Anna Borys was tasked with perfecting a useful, upcycled flour using a base of brewer’s spent grains (BSG) and saved coffee grounds (SCG). Borys was confident she could overcome the project’s main challenge of reducing the gritty texture that comes with such a high fibre material and embarked on weeks of trials and testing to prove it.

Her analysis of extensive sieving trials and multiple ingredient combinations led to a formulation that improved the functionality of BSG flour – from there, the entire PRK team worked together with GroundUp on tasting trials.

Date: July 6, 2022 RRC Polytech Paterson GlobalFoods Institute Photo by Jason Halstead

Dozens of samples of each baking mix and hundreds of pancakes, waffles, and brownies later, a refined recipe and optimal cooking procedure emerged, as well as feedback and recommendations for future products.

“Everything we do at PRK requires a team effort because scientists and chefs have different approaches and priorities when it comes to food,” says Borys. “Our ultimate goal is to strike the perfect balance between science and art so it’s incredibly rewarding when we reach a consensus and the final product functions well, looks appealing, and tastes great.”        

Shawn’s instincts were also proven correct as the immediate reaction to GroundUp’s delicious, easy-to-use, baking mixes that highlight sustainable and healthy ingredients was overwhelmingly positive.

Better Breakfast High-Protein Pancake Mix and Born Again Brownie Mix won gold for innovation of the year at the SIAL Montreal tradeshow in April 2022. Their success at Canada’s largest food industry exhibition with over 1200 exhibitors from 50 different countries established the GroundUp eco-ventures brand and prompted orders to roll in.  

“It’s mind blowing how quickly our upcycling concept transformed into an award-winning product after we tapped into the incredible resources at Prairie Research Kitchen,” says Leggett. “Combining their technical knowledge with our passion and energy allowed the team to perfect our idea and we are shattering all projections.”

GroundUp’s successful venture is a source of pride but not of shock for Anna Borys, because finding innovative and creative solutions is just part of the daily routine at PRK. While the results can appear quite magical, it’s not a trick or an illusion – just another example of RRC Polytech living its commitment to use the power of partnership to elevate people and industry.

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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