Evogene forms subsidiary to expand castor bean activity in Brazil

By Bryan Sims | January 03, 2012

Israel-based Evogene Ltd. has launched a wholly owned subsidiary, Evofuel Ltd., to accelerate the development and commercialization of castor bean varieties in Brazil for biodiesel and biojet fuel production, as well as to expand biofuel research and development activities located in Israel.

According to a statement released by Evogene, the impetus behind establishing the subsidiary is due to the need for diversifying feedstock supply to fulfill worldwide demand of biodiesel, which currently relies mainly on edible oils such as soybeans and canola.

Originally launched in 2007, Evogene’s biofuel activity targets the development of second-gen feedstocks to serve as sustainable, viable and cost-effective sources of oil for the burgeoning global biodiesel industry. In addition to its castor bean seed development and commercialization efforts, the company stated that it “intends to broaden its activity to additional potential feedstocks for the biodiesel, biojet and ethanol markets.”

“With the biofuel industry’s continued growth and tremendous demand for cost-competitive feedstock, there is a strong and immediate need for a solution based on designated second-generation seed products,” said Ofer Haviv, president and CEO of Evogene. “The establishment of Evofuel as a separate company strongly positions it to address this substantial unmet need. We are reinforced by the progress and results of our castor seed in Brazil and believe that access to Evogene’s leading plant genomics capabilities will provide Evofuel with commercial advantages and opportunities in relevant markets.”

The formation of Evofuel follows on the heels of Evogene successfully completing field trials for its advanced castor varieties in Brazil in cooperation with SLC Agricola S.A., a leading agribusiness firm in the country, which will be cultivated for biodiesel feedstock. Under the expanded agreement, Evogene and SLC Agricola intend to continue to evaluate Evogene’s castor varieties at its farm locations in Brazil. The goal is to identify the best performing varieties and agronomic practices suitable for commercial-scale production.

In addition to Brazil and Israel, field trials of castor been cultivars are also being conducted in the U.S.; most notably at Texas A&M University. Additional collaborators in the program include NASA and Honeywell’s UOP.

In mid-2010, Evogene announced that biobased jet fuel produced using its castor varieties met international standards for alternative aviation fuels. The testing was completed in collaboration with NASA and Honeywell’s UOP. Also in 2010, the company announced that a life-cycle analysis of biodiesel using its castor varieties demonstrated a 90 percent greenhouse gas reduction when compared to petroleum.


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