Bressler, Dr. David

2011 Winner: Innovation In Agricultural Science Sponsored By Dow AgroSciences Canada Inc.

“Builder” Converts Abundant Biomass To Create A Sustainable Economy

Dr. David Bressler pushes the envelope to utilize the full extent of his many talents to play a pivotal role in bringing Alberta to the forefront in the emerging global bio-industrial sector.

An associate professor of biorefining conversions and fermentations at the University of Alberta in a position supported by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Bressler has degrees in microbiology and biotechnology, with extensive experience in chemical engineering. He combines these traditional academic disciplines with his experience in government collaborations and policy, industrial development and partnerships. He is a leader in bio-industrial processing and bio-products within the Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences faculty and throughout Alberta.

Integrating Multiple Disciplines  

“We are sitting at a historic transition point in the biomass industry and we need to speak the languages of multiple disciplines to take the province to its maximum potential including forestry, petroleum chemistry, agriculture, energy and engineering – to build an industry that is uniquely Albertan,” Dr. Bressler says. He is internationally recognized for mastering those languages, for integrating and communicating with partners and stakeholders, including industry, government and academia, and for his ability to speak to students, producers and the broader community.

A native of northern Alberta, Dr. Bressler has an innate affinity with the industrial sectors that drive the province’s economy.

“Albertans have expertise in the soft sciences – like forest management and health and human resources – and wide abundance of energy, forestry and agricultural materials,” he says. “We are uniquely positioned to be a major player in the evolving global bioeconomy. We need to continue to build on our success for a value-add bioeconomy here, not by replacing non-renewable energy, but by figuring out how to convert biomass into compatible resources in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable without impacting food reserves.”

Necessary Collaborations

Dr. Bressler serves as leader of the Alberta Biorefining Conversions Network (BCN), a major collaborative effort between industry, government and several postsecondary institutions in Alberta to establish a multi-million-dollar technology investment in this field. The network and Dr. Bressler have played a key role in raising the province’s profile internationally and have drawn investment and participation from several international agencies.

“I characterize myself as a builder,” he says. “That’s what my work is about with the BCN and in my training approaches for postdoctoral and graduate students; to be innovative and multidisciplinary.”

At the Forefront of Change 

Dr. Bressler is also an acclaimed researcher. He focuses on innovations in converting biomass to next generation renewable fuels and chemicals to create value-added products using thermal, chemical and microbial processing technologies.

His earliest patent application is for a green diesel technology made from lipid feedstocks. He recently filed a patent on a new technology to produce plastic materials from bovine protein recovered from specified risk material, generating markets for animal byproducts lost because of the BSE crisis. His patents also include industrial firefighting foams made from animal proteins and production of short-chain fatty acids for the chemicals industry from renewable oils.

“In 50 years from now, we will have a very different world – one that is sustainable, integrated and renewable,” he says. “I feel privileged to be one of the vanguard in evolving the whole biosciences sector to make that happen.”