Primed for Growth

How increased jatropha oil availability is coming to Brazil
By Bryan Sims | February 09, 2011

It started in 2007, when researchers began collecting an extensive library of jatropha genetic material in Central America, featuring thousands of genotypes that put SG Biofuels on the map as a bioenergy crop company. Now, the San Diego-based firm aims to extend its jatropha seed development and breeding expertise into Brazil with the launch of an R&D center to bring its JMax Jatropha Optimization Platform online through a newly created subsidiary, SG Biofuels Brasil Ltd. in Sao Paulo. Fernando Reinach was named senior advisor to help lead the initiative.

SG Biofuels found Brazil to be an enticing location to establish relations with area farmers in the northeast region to grow jatropha on dry nonfood land, says Brian Brokowski, vice president. The jatropha will be an ideal and readily available feedstock for biodiesel producers in the region, he says.

“Obviously, jatropha is very well-suited for biodiesel and there’s a strong market in Brazil for biodiesel,” Brokowski tells Biodiesel Magazine. “One of the advantages of jatropha is that there is a mandate in Brazil where biofuel producers have to secure 30 percent of their feedstock from community farms. Many growers are struggling to meet that requirement. Jatropha provides a solid option for growers to meet that mandate through community farming initiatives.”

While its first priority is R&D, SG Biofuels intends to leverage its existing partnership with global oilseed crushing firm Bunge North America to aid in the downstream market of its jatropha to biodiesel producers.

“We need to be looking at the complete value chain,” Brokowski says. “Not only the crop science and plantation development, but all the way through to downstream logistics and processing. Bunge will be working with us to establish a model for efficient processing in Brazil and other markets we’re working in.”

In addition to Bunge, SG Biofuels has worked with Life Technologies Corp. on a genome sequencing project to identify different jatropha gene characteristics, and has also created cultivar of jatropha that SG Biofuels claims it can provide 100 percent greater yields when used in Guatemalan growing conditions.   

“[Brazil] is an area that, just based on soil conditions, isn’t optimal for food production,” Brokowski says. “There’s a significant need for alternative crops and energy crops, and we really think jatropha could be a viable crop in that region.”

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