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Aurora Biofuels Reorganizes to Enter Food Market

August 26th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Energy-Companies

The new business plan of Aurora, formerly Aurora Biofuels emerged out of research conducted at UC Berkeley in 2007 with a business plan to grow algae in open ponds to produce fuel. However, they have now decided to move into the food market and hence the change in the name as well.

Now into the food market – When it emerges, Aurora will put a strong emphasis on growing algae for omega-3 fatty acids and proteins for the dietary supplements market. It will also sell cell mass as animal feed. Aurora had mentioned the possibility of selling cell mass (i.e., the leftovers after the oil has been extracted) as pet food in the past, but the push on oils for human dietary supplements, particularly with a vigor that will equal or exceed the company’s push into fuel in the near term, is new.

Why the switch? The vast majority of biofuel startups have encountered difficulty in getting past the experimental stage. Range Fuels, Mascoma and others have delayed plants because of a lack of available capital. Others, like algae pioneer GreenFuel Technologies, which raised over $70 million, went under. Large oil producers like ExxonMobil have invested in biofuel start-ups, but have yet to commit to full-scale production agreements with them.

Further, the price of fuel fluctuates. Many startups were formed in the 2004-2008 era when predictions of $200-a-barrel oil weren’t that far-fetched. Now, oil burbles around $75 a barrel.

By contrast, the chemistry and markets are much more stable. Potential suppliers have to meet certain technical and safety thresholds, but once they do, they can secure lucrative contracts. Put another way, it’s easier to get on your plate than into your gas tank.

In March ,Surora  raised $15 million more and appointed Scott McDonald as CEO. The company said it would use the money for advanced algae biofuel development and did not mention food.

Aurora’s founders optimized a genetic pathway in a strain of algae that effectively turbocharges the growth and reproduction cycle. Back in 2009, the company talked about $2-a-gallon biodiesel by 2011 or 2012. But by the end of that year, it failed to get a Department of Energy grant. The management changes, and now the strategy change, followed soon afterwards.

See more – http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/algae-start-up-aurora-reorganizes-to-enter-food-market/

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