Sapphire licenses spirulina strain from Earthrise Nutritionals

By Erin Voegele | March 02, 2012

Sapphire Energy Inc. has entered into a licensing agreement with Earthrise Nutritionals LLC, a company that has produced spirulina and spirulina-based products for more than 25 years. Spirulina, also known as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, can be cultivated in a similar fashion to green algae to produce lipids.

 According to Sapphire Energy, it will integrate Earthrise Nutritionals’ spirulina strain into its growing inventory of cyanobacteria and algae strains for algae-to-energy production. As a result of the agreement, Sapphire Energy said it has significantly improved its operational efficiency by expanding the range of strain choices available for producing its biobased crude, which can be refined into diesel, jet and gasoline fuels.

There are several reasons Sapphire Energy has chosen to license this strain of spirulina, said Tim Zenk, the company’s vice president of corporate affairs. First, the edition adds to the library of cyanobacteria and algae that the company is already using, he said. Second, Zenk noted that the strain has a long history of commercial cultivation in the California desert. “It has been grown in…California desert conditions for 25 years, so it has the viability to survive under extreme conditions,” he said. Finally, it the strain is a good fit within Sapphire Energy’s production technology.  “The technology we invented to process green algae…is able to get very high oil yields from cyanobacteria as well,” Zenk continued. “It expands the range of species that can now be used by Sapphire in all of our deployments.” The newly licensed strain will be integrated into seasonal transitions within the integrated algal biorefinery that Sapphire Energy is developing in New Mexico.

 “This agreement is an example of Sapphire Energy’s ‘whole value chain’ strategy to integrate biotechnology, agriculture and engineering to deliver a sustainable system for Green Crude production from algae and cyanobacteria,” said CJ Warner, president of Sapphire Energy. “As a respected leader in agricultural science and a pioneer in spirulina production, Earthrise Nutritionals is the right choice for us to work with as we ready our platform for marketable scale algae cultivation and oil extraction.”

According to Zenk, Sapphire Energy is adding additional algae strains to its library via similar licensing agreements. “We’ve always been very interested in seeing what others have been working on, and if there are some strains that might fill out our portfolio, we absolutely would be interested,” he said. “All these strains are pretty specific to climate, environmental conditions and geography. We take all of those different constraints into account.”


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