Evogene, T6 Industrial partner on castor trials in Argentina

By Erin Voegele | May 25, 2012

Israel-based Evogene Ltd. has announced its wholly owned subsidiary Evofuel Ltd. has entered into a collaboration with Argentinian biodiesel producer T6 Industrial S.A. for the development of castor bean seeds and biodiesel feedstock. Under the collaboration, the two companies aim to evaluate and develop Evofuel’s castor bean varieties, which display high oil yield in rain-fed conditions, for commercial production in Argentina. The work will include field trails as well as validation activities related to economics and scalability.

“Our announced collaboration with T6 Industrial is a strategic step towards expanding our activity into additional markets in Latin America, further to our ongoing activity in Brazil, which bears substantial opportunities for large-scale commercial production of castor,” said Assaf Oron, general manager of Evofuel. “We are excited to work with T6 Industrial to provide a viable and economically attractive feedstock solution for the biodiesel market in Argentina.”

According to Oron, the Argentina project follows successful field trials of his company’s castor bean varieties in Brazil. He said the intention with the proposed trials with T6 Industrial is to evaluate which of Evofuel’s castor bean varieties will be most appropriate for commercial cultivation in Argentina. The two companies will also test the economic viability of castor bean biodiesel production, evaluating factors from cultivation through production.

Oron said that planning activities for the trials are currently underway. “We are also going through the procedural acts of importing our castor bean varieties,” he said. Assuming these activities go as planned, Oron said that the first Argentinian field trials are expected to begin in 2013. Initially 5 to 10 hectares (12 to 25 acres) of the crop will be planted on agricultural lands that T6 Industrial has access to. He also noted that field trials are expected to take two to three years, with commercial-level production following the trails.

To date, Evofuel’s work in Brazil has resulted in oil yields of 3 to 4 tons per hectare (360 to 480 gallons per acre). Oron said those yields should present a cost equivalent to petroleum oil costs of $50 to $70 per barrel.

According to Oron, it is possible his company will branch out to trial and cultivate castor beans in other countries in the future. “It is likely over time that we will expand into additional territories where we see that there is suitability for castor and there is commitment…to biofuels,” he said. Strong partners committed to the development of second-generation feedstock are also important, he added.

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