I used to cover the agbiotech market where BASF, DuPont via Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow Chemical via its Dow Agrosciences business, Syngenta and Monsanto where at each other’s throats (I think they still are) competing to have the highest oil-yielding oilseed; the most drought-resistant and insect-resistant corn, soybeans, wheat, and other food crops; and developing crops that use less fertilizer.
This year seems to start the quest for non-food crops for use in biofuels and biochemicals.
DuPont said it is collaborating with NexSteppe to develop advanced feedstocks for biofuels, biopower and and biobased products. The collaboration will focus on the development of new sweet sorghum and high biomass sorgum hybrids. DuPont also made an equity investment in NexSteppe (amount undisclosed).
Sorghum is said to be a naturally drought- and heat-tolerante crop that can grow in marginal rainfall areas with high temperatures where other crops can’t usually grow.
Another company working on sorghum is Chicago, Illinois-based Chromatin, which has just been awarded $5.7m from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop the crop as feedstock for drop-in biofuels. Chromatin said it is working to develop non-food varieties of sorghum that have higher energy content making it ideal for the production of transportation fuel, high value chemicals and a high-BTU source of biopower.
Finally, Israel-based Evogene, has established a new company called Evofuel to focus on developing seed for advanced biofuel feedstock. Current focus is on the development of advanced castor varieties being developed in Brazil.
Evofuel intends to broaden its activity to additional potential feedstocks for the biodiesel, biojet and bioethanol markets.
Other companies working in this field (that the blog is aware of) includes:
- Arcadia Biosciences – received a grant from the US DOE worth $950,000 to develop technology that enables plants to produce high levels of oil in their leaves and stems making biofuel and oleochemical production more cost efficient and environment-friendly.
- Canadian research firm Linnaeus Plant Sciences – research on advanced production of oilseed crops camelina and safflower to use as feedstock in chemicals manufacture.
- Metabolix Oilseeds – a business of Metabolix which is looking at research and development of oilseed crops such as camelina as a potential source of feedstock for bioplastic and other chemicals.
- SG Biofuels – a bioenergy crop company that is developing elite seeds of jatropha. The company is collaborating with companies such as Bunge, Flint Hills Resources, and India-based Bharat Renewable Energy.
- Agradis – agbiotech company (owned by Synthetic Genomics) which is currently focusing on castor and sweet sorghum for biofuel/biochemical feedstock.
- Syngenta and Agrivida – the companies are collaborating to develop advanced crop technology such as corn, sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus that will provide low-cost sugars for biofuels and biochemicals application.
- Ceres and Novozymes – the companies are collaborating in the development of customized plant varieties such as switchgrass, miscathus and sorghum as well as enzyme cocktails for the production of cellulosic biofuel.