(Baie-Comeau) To develop its economy, the North Shore relies on what the nature that surrounds it offers: wood, of course, but also small fruits such as sea buckthorn berries, bilberries or cloudberry. Researchers gathered at the Cégep de Baie-Comeau are conducting various experiments to optimize its use and develop new outlets. Especially beer.

It is not to keep drinks cold that researcher Ève-Catherine Desjardins keeps a small fridge in her office at the Center for Experimentation and Development in the Boreal Forest (CEDFOB), located at Cégep de Baie-Comeau. It’s not even plugged in. Behind its door, however, we discover several dozen jars of about one liter filled with an orange liquid in which half-crushed fruits of the same color sometimes float.

These shapeless spheres are in fact sea buckthorn berries, a rising star of small fruits on the North Shore. They are bathed in a liquid essentially composed of apple juice. Their storage in this fridge stripped of its refrigeration functions is part of a fermentation test conducted by the CEDFOB team in collaboration with a local company, the St-Pancrace microbrewery.

This is not the first time that the company has collaborated with the research center. Its Tête-de-cheval beers (a sour white beer with sea buckthorn and cranberry), Baie-Cachée (a sour haskap) and several others were also developed hand in hand with CEDFOB scientists.

“We don’t always know if a product will come out of what we’re doing there,” admits André Morin. What we do know, however, is that we are in action for our growth and that, for that, we must have projects in our boxes. With CEDFOB, we have access to a whole team that has equipment that can accelerate the research and development phase. »

Established in 2004, CEDFOB’s mandate is to carry out applied research in order to stimulate demand for products from the surrounding boreal forest and to optimize their use. He leads several projects with the forest industry, but places more and more emphasis on small northern fruits which, along with entomology, are a specialty of researcher Ève-Catherine Desjardins.

She is particularly dedicated to the development of “production management”, i.e. the best agricultural practices. A specialist in pollination and northern bees, she also supervises experimental berry crops. “We do multiplication in the lab. We look for specimens and we work with the producers to favor the most productive, the most resistant, the best in taste,” she explains. Once the cultures are “mounted” comes the networking with local businesses.

“In the past, producers were content to sell their production”, explains his colleague Serge-Thierry Lekounougou.

The days when Nordic berries were only used to make more or less artisanal jams or jellies are over. “There is a great demand for alcohols, but also for cosmetics,” says the researcher, referring to soaps, hydrosols and creams made with sea buckthorn by-products, for example. “The idea is to expose the properties of sometimes little-known berries that could have the same value as other products from elsewhere,” adds Serge-Thierry Lekounougou, trained in biology and chemistry.

The impact of CEDFOB on the North Shore cannot be underestimated, according to André Morin, of the St-Pancrace microbrewery. “The networking projects with pickers and producers in the region start from there,” he says. This development and technology transfer center is also a regional priority in the eyes of Quebec, which has invested more than 8 of the 9 million needed for the construction of a new pavilion at the Cégep de Baie-Comeau which will soon house the CEDFOB.

The new building, still under construction at the time of La Presse in April, has an area of ​​15,000 square feet distributed over 3 levels. It will bring together the four laboratories currently dispersed over three sites, one of which is located in Pointe-aux-Outardes, about thirty kilometers west of Baie-Comeau. It will also house an interpretation and awareness center on the boreal forest.

In 10 years, Ève-Catherine Desjardins has seen the situation change: berry harvests are increasing and markets are developing. “Lingonberry, we don’t supply. Cloudberry is starting to be very popular too,” she notes. Investing between $5,000 and $20,000 in a research project is worth it, according to André Morin. “These are reasonable sums insofar as we think there is an outlet,” he analyzes, while emphasizing that the promotion of north-coastal products is part of the signature of the St-Pancrace microbrewery.

The ligneous material component is not left out, however, points out Serge-Thierry Lekounougou, specialist in the biochemistry of wood. In particular, CEDFOB is leading a project with the forest industry and the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et des Forêts to improve the quality of wood, greatly affected by the spruce budworm.

“The idea was to develop methods to identify species and areas where trees are less degraded and to establish defoliation criteria,” he explains. Before, we did it directly in the field, now we also use drones that allow us to see the more or less defoliated sectors to guide companies and tell them where they can go to harvest. »

Researchers in the ligneous matter component also work with companies in the region to recover residues from the forestry industry and the recycling of construction wood. For example, CEDFOB is helping a company that makes compost from wood bark, among other things, to “improve its recipe”.

This is not a detail, because the establishment of a circular economy based on the reuse of forest residues, berry waste or other industrial activities (such as beer brewing) is also at the heart of the mission of the research center. Sea buckthorn and cloudberry oils, for example, come from the pressing of their fruits. The spent grains from the St-Pancrace microbrewery are reused by a mushroom producer and a deer breeder.

“Participating in a circular and sharing economy is an essential value for us,” says André Morin. We do this with our beer, but we also believe that a region shines through its strong entrepreneurial identity and its partnerships. »

The Center for Experimentation and Development in the Boreal Forest, affiliated with Cégep de Baie-Comeau, is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with Côte-Nord businesses to improve their practices and develop new products.

It was founded in 2004 and initially focused on forest products. He is increasingly interested in promoting small Nordic fruits such as bilberry, sea buckthorn and cloudberries. It also promotes the recycling of agro-industrial waste and residues in a spirit of circular economy.

CEDFOB is also a college technology transfer center that is part of a pan-Quebec network of nearly 60.


Population : 20 800 habitants