Automobile panels from wheat straw. Cigarette paper from flax. Flower pots from potato starch. Textiles from hemp.
All are bioproducts -- industrial goods made from crop fibre.
Throughout the world, companies are beginning to use biomaterials, including agricultural fibre, to produce everyday items.
It's part of a small but growing movement by manufacturers to replace petroleum-based composites, such as plastics and fibreglass, with renewable biofibres in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
And Manitoba farmers are well positioned to provide them with the fibre they need, says Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province's general farm organization.
Manitoba's crops generate 4.7 million tonnes of straw every year, less than half of which is actually required for livestock and soil improvement, Chorney told a recent international biofibre conference in Winnipeg.
Burning crop residue is strictly regulated in Manitoba. This potentially leaves large volumes of straw available for secondary uses, such as supplying the growing biofibre market, says Chorney, a grain and oilseed producer.
Exports are critical for Manitoba's agricultural and agri-food industry, which generates 9.5 per cent of the province's gross domestic product. He says biofibre could become a valuable contributor.
"Clearly we are not going to eat our way to new markets, so we need to do more with what we currently have."
Manitoba is in a good position to produce agricultural biofibre, especially from flax and hemp, because its climate and soils are well suited to growing those crops, says Jeff Kraynyk, agri-energy manager for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.
"The future is very promising," Kraynyk says.
The Manitoba government actively promotes the bioproducts industry. Its goal is for the sector to generate annual revenues of $2 billion by 2020, with 80 per cent of that coming from rural and northern communities.
The Winnipeg-based Composites Innovation Centre, a government-industry corporation that develops composite materials for manufacturers, helps support the effort.
Manitoba currently has 43 firms involved in researching, developing or producing bioproducts.
The province has had mixed success with projects in the past. A large strawboard manufacturing plant west of Winnipeg went bankrupt 10 years ago. A similar project proposed for southwestern Manitoba never got off the ground.
But Chorney says biofibre projects can succeed if they use proven technology, are competitive and sell to established markets.