What is Bioresource Engineering?

Bioresource Engineering is an interdisciplinary program that integrates engineering, design and the biological sciences. It is a unique profession that applies engineering principles to the enhancement and sustainability of the world’s natural resources. Bioresource Engineers seek solutions to problems that involve plants, animals and the environment.

Bioresource Engineering includes the:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Maintenance
  • Remediation
  • Upgrading of systems that contain biological components.

This also includes the design of many of the technological constructions that are part of such systems. Thus, Bioresource Engineering includes quite a few sub-disciplines, which are linked because of their biological orientation.

Why Study Bioresource Engineering at McGill University Macdonald Campus?

McGill University is an internationally recognized leader in professional education. McGill is known throughout the world for the quality and diversity of programs. With a McGill University degree you are welcome anywhere, anytime.


Engineering is a profession whose impact on and utility to society is undeniably the strongest force of all. No matter what kind of system you are interested in, and no matter what your exact point of view and intent, engineering is the discipline and profession that accomplishes. All the main variables of our private lives, and the life of our civilization, are mediated through engineering. Just think ... how would we supply food, water, sewage treatment, electricity, housing, heating, communications, and all the other basic needs without engineering the underlying systems and their components? Impossible!

Engineers are...

... the active agents of creation and production, of system control and guidance. Engineers are involved in every aspect of building and maintaining our vitally important industries. At the same time, engineers are also the guardians of society's and the environment's well-being. Because engineers have intimate and detailed knowledge of large, complex systems they are able to think rationally about the advantages and disadvantages of various development strategies, industrial methods, and more. The engineer follows a balanced approach.

As an engineer you will find tremendous satisfaction in your work and you will be proud of your contribution to society.

Bioresource Engineering

As a Bioresource Engineer you have a tremendous number of opportunities available to you, all related to systems in which biological and technological components act together. Your opportunities and what you can accomplish are unlimited! As a Bioresource Engineer you can:

  • Work on water resources development at the watershed or local level
  • Work on ecosystems
  • Work on agricultural machines or animal housing
  • Design golf courses
  • Be involved in remote sensing and area planning
  • Make a career in food processing
  • Work with soils
  • You can do fermentation
  • You can get involved in remediation

Different Scales of Bioresource Engineering

Bioresource Engineering addresses the different scales of biological systems, large to small and everything in between. See examples of: Large Scale, Medium Scale and Small Scale (see below)

What all these different scales have in common, is the combination of biological agents with technological constructions. The same basic, unifying principles apply in all cases, whether you are dealing with a complete ecosystem, a small forest, a food processing machine, or a microbe.

In our Undergraduate program, you will learn about the basic engineering principles, and how to apply them at the different physical scales. This way of thinking is what makes you a Bioresource Engineer. We follow a systems-based approach to teach you about:

  • Ecosystems
  • Watersheds
  • Soils
  • Water flow
  • Resource distribution
  • Machines and mechatronics
  • Structures
  • Food plants
  • Storage of biological materials
  • Processing and bio-processing
  • Sophisticated data acquisition and control
  • Bio-remediation
  • Bio-complexity, etc.

Bioresource Scale Examples

Large Scale

A large scale example is the watershed of an entire river, which can be millions of hectares. At this level, Bioresource Engineers deal with:

  • Deal with soil and water issues in the watershed
  • Assess how human needs can be met while maintaining ecological sustainability
  • Look after the overall design and management of biofuel production units, such as a forest of fast-growing tree species
  • Work with data sets that are collected via satellite
  • Create systems that can automatically locate water stress and disease in crops and forests

Medium Scale

Medium scale examples are enterprises of the agro-ecosystem size, such as farms between 10 to 1000 hectares, oilseed growing units for biodiesel production and wind farms on which animals may graze. At this level, Bioresource Engineers deal with:

  • Designing and supervising the construction of machines, buildings, and service and control equipment
  • Various types of machines for planting and harvesting
  • Buildings whose primary function is either animal or plant production
  • Drainage and irrigation
  • Soil structure maintenance
  • Waste storage and treatment
  • Crop and animal handling, etc.

Of about the same size, but much more 'industrial' in nature, we find food processing plants, factories in which raw materials are converted to high-value commodities, and fermentation facilities where, for instance, cellulose will be converted into ethanol fuel.

Small Scale

Smaller scale examples are units like greenhouses, milking parlours, fruit and vegetable storages, composting bins, etc. Bioresource Engineers deal with the details of these facilities where biological products are grown, stored, and processed. To go even smaller, Bioresource Engineers work on individual machines that are used for production, maintenance, heating, cooling, as well as units like composters, fermentors, grinders, blowers, engines, and conveyors. At the very smallest scale, Bioresource Engineers deal with microbial and bio-chemical agents like enzymes that are used by the food industry (think brewery, think ethanol from cellulose), pharmaceutical companies, and like-minded clients.