Shareholders of Toronto’s Bioexx (TSX:BXI) are having the kind of day that has become all too familiar to them. The stock, which was down more than 9%, to $1.07 at press time, has fallen from a high of $2.66 on January 7th.
Bioexx, which has developed a patented system for extracting protein from plants, began commercial production of canola protein isolates at its flagship facility in Saskatoon last week. While the Company had faced delays in bringing the plant online, it generated modest revenue from canola oil and canola meal sales. But it’s clear the real blue-sky appeal for Bioexx shareholders is the market potential for deriving protein from oilseed extraction.
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Oilseed extraction has it attracted worldwide attention because of the increasing scarcity of protein sources. Some experts believe that as the world population grows traditional sources of protein, such as those derived from animals, will become expensive and unsustainable. They surmise that protein from seeds such as canola will naturally follow the lead of the most recognizable oilseed product; soy. According to the USDA, worldwide soy consumption rose 125 percent from 1990 to 2007.
Until recently, the technology for extracting the protein from a plant wasn’t practical because the process required temperatures in excess of 100°C. When proteins are exposed to temperatures above 65°C they begin to denature, which reduces their nutritive value. Bioexx believes its patented extraction system, which uses refrigerant-based solvents “is the only known commercial system that allows for low temperatures to be maintained during the extraction of oils and proteins from the biomass”.
On June 6th, Bioexx the company announced that the First commercial shipments from the Saskatoon plant are being arranged for delivery to the company’s protein distribution partner, Hamburg based conglomerate Helm AG. The canola protein, which Bioexx will produce to purity levels of 80 per cent or higher, is being marketed under the name Advantexx80. The company says this protein is “generally superior to typical soy product” and will be used in range of food and beverage products including protein shakes and bars.
Getting its Saskatoon facility up to speed is a must for Bioexx. Capital expenditures have slowed there, and the company says the plant is running well mechanically, but production is still just ten per cent of capacity. Capacity is expected to increase to fifty per cent later this summer, something Bioexx shareholders no doubt hope will help stem the company’s ongoing losses. In their recently reported Q1, Bioexx’s loss of just over $3.8 million narrowed last year’s Q1 loss, but just barely. As of March 31st, the company had cash and short term investments of $13.16 million against a debt of $4.55 million.
The delays have had at least one positive side. As Bioexx enters commercial production it looks upon stronger prices for its protein. The company says that recent channel checks with buyers suggests that 90% purity proteins are selling for approximately $13 per kilogram, with 80% selling for approximately 11$ per kilogram. Bioexx says it can produce its 80% product for $6 a kilogram.