Finding new ways to use an old crop: Jerusalem artichokes bloom again

You may know Jerusalem artichokes primarily as the towering yellow daisies that overflow gardens in August and September; for Alberta startup NovaGreen, their value lies in what you can’t see: the tubers they grow underground.

Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) are a native North American sunflower species that was prized for the food value of its tubers by indigenous people and credited with helping to keep early settlers alive. Exported to Europe, it became popular at first as food for humans but later was used mostly as animal feed.

It fell out of favour in North America as well, until efforts to revive it gradually took hold in the 1990s and beyond. Its value today is chiefly the high concentrations of inulin (a prized source of fibre) and fructose it contains. Novagreen has developed a method for efficiently extracting inulin from Jerusalem artichokes.

According to Barry Farquharson, co-founder of Novagreen, the company’s partnership with Lakeland College “has helped us to get to this next level by providing and modifying commercial potato equipment for the project, as well as advancing the science of weed control, application of biochar to crop development, and more.”

“Their combination of agricultural knowhow, combined with a scientific approach, adds essential discipline and capability to project advancement.”

Industry: Agriculture

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