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Horses a growing market for high-omega Canadian camelina oil

Guelph ON – Horses and their owners weren’t the original target market when Linnaeus Plant Sciences Inc. first began working with camelina as a possible source of oils that could replace petroleum-based products.
The company is a global leader in camelina development and has created new varieties that are high yielding and disease resistant. The resulting oil from the crop is high in omega-3 fatty acid, which is what first caught the attention of Canada’s equine industry.
Canada’s climate means horses can’t be grazing on outdoor pastures year-round and adding omega-3s to their diets helps supplement their rations when they’re consuming dried hay instead of fresh grass.
“It gives horses’ coats a nice glossy sheen, allows for healthy hair growth, and is good for their skin when they get itchy and dry in the winter from wearing blankets,” says Jenna Tranter of Four Corners Equestrian, who has been working with Linnaeus on selling the oil. “This is especially important for competitive equestrians whose horses have to look perfect all the time.”
The camelina oil, which is added to their grain or on top of hay, also improves their gastrointestinal health, she adds.
It was when several companies began ordering bulk camelina oil for their own equine products that this new market opportunity came to the attention of Linnaeus; the company ultimately developed its own branding and web-based marketing strategy to sell the oil directly to horse owners.
“We use Shopify for our online store, marketing through Facebook and also partnering with Amazon, and we’re getting a groundswell of orders in Canada,” says Linnaeus President Jack Grushcow. “On one end, our company is focused on traditional, science-based, old-school plant breeding and crop development and on the other end, we’re marketing and selling online in a way that isn’t standard issue in the agricultural business world.”
There are other applications for camelina oil too; for Linnaeus, its biggest customer is actually aquaculture, where camelina replaces fish oil in aquaculture diets, making the sector more sustainable. Other high omega applications are eggs from laying hens fed camelina meal to increase their omega-3 content, and salmon raised with camelina oil.
According to Grushcow, entering the renewable oils-based market is challenging, but long-term support from Guelph-based Oilseed Innovation Partners (OIP) has helped his company advance their camelina business as well as development of applications for other oilseeds, such as renewable, plant-based lubricants.
“Our role is to support market development and commercialization opportunities for the Canadian oilseed industry, whether food, industrial or agricultural applications,” says OIP CEO Jeff Schmalz. “There is tremendous potential in the sector and it is our mandate to unlock that potential and drive value to the Canadian economy by working with companies like Linnaeus Plant Sciences to advance their business.”
For farmers, camelina is a drought-tolerant crop that requires few inputs and grows well on dry land. And for companies interested in camelina oil applications, the potential is significant and yet to be explored, says Grushcow.
“We are working on equine products now, but are planning to expand into similar products for pets, and there is interest from the cosmetic and health drink sectors too,” he says, adding there is also a growing export market in China, where the oil, with its high smoke point, is popular for frying.
Oilseed Innovation Partners receives funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Visit
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