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Sapphire Teams With Monsanto

Sapphire Teams With Monsanto

March 9, 2011
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

In a move to set the stage for Sapphire Energy’s commercial scale development, as well as to facilitate their mass agriculture deployment, the San Diego-based “Green Crude” company has entered into a multi-year collaboration with Ag giant Monsanto. The announcement states that the alliance will leverage Sapphire’s algae-based research platform to discover genes that could be applied to agriculture, particularly in the areas of yield and stress. Under the agreement, Monsanto and Sapphire will collaborate on algae-based research projects, and Monsanto will make an equity investment in Sapphire. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The alliance has the potential to provide much more than R&D and additional funding, considering Monsanto’s dominance in agricultural product development, sales and distribution. As Sapphire CEO Dr. Jason Pyle said in a recent A.I.M. Interview, “We have fifty million fallow farm acres in this country, so one of the great opportunities that we are putting on the table is the idea of taking fallow agricultural land and putting it back into commercial use.”

Acquiring land for cultivation is one of the challenges algae producers face in growing to scale. Leveraging off the existing infrastructure of Monsanto could help Sapphire establish the vision of a new energy crop farming model. Said Dr. Pyle, “It is common in agriculture now that if you’ve distributed geographically, you have a much lower likelihood of a catastrophic crop failure across the entire industry. So when you look at things that are highly distributed, things like wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, canola…they tend not to absorb catastrophic crop failures, and tend to be very local. As we move toward an energy industry that is based on production agriculture, I think we’ll have to take that same approach.”

The collaboration will enable Monsanto to tap into Sapphire’s synthetic biology as well as algal expertise and research tools. “Sapphire’s expertise in algal research offers a novel platform that will allow us to screen and identify promising genes faster,” said Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “We face a common goal in looking for ways to improve upon an organism’s ability to achieve greater productivity under optimal and sub-optimal environmental conditions. Together with Sapphire, we can identify genes affecting such traits in algae that might also be applied to corn, cotton, soybeans and other crops.”

“Through this collaborative partnership, we’ll focus our leading-edge research agenda on some of the biggest questions facing both agriculture and energy,” added Dr. Pyle.

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Thu March 10 2011 09:45:26 AM by Tomcatino 1534 views
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