Davis company gets funds to squeeze more oil from plants

October 26, 2011 12:28pm

•  Department of Energy gives $950,000 to Arcadia Biosciences

•  ‘Finding sustainable, plant-based alternatives to fossil fuels is a high priority worldwide’

Arcadia Biosciences Inc., of Davis says it will use a $950,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop technology that enables plants to produce high levels of oil in their leaves and stems.

If successful, the technology could significantly increase the amount of energy produced by plants, making the production of biofuels and other oleochemicals more cost efficient and environment friendly, the company says.

The Arcadia project is designed to produce vegetable oil in plant leaves and stems, turning plant parts that are not usually harvested for many crops into a source of concentrated energy. Vegetable oil is the most concentrated source of energy made by plants, but is usually made only in seeds.

Crops can yield remarkably high amounts of fixed carbon per acre in leaves and stems but converting that into usable energy is relatively inefficient. The development of plants that produce oil in leaves and stems, as well as in seed, will increase total energy production per acre and significantly decrease the carbon footprint of resulting biofuels, the firm says.

The University of California, Davis has developed technology that enables the production of oil in plant leaves and stems and Arcadia Biosciences, in collaboration with Katie Dehesh at UCD, will use the technology to ultimately develop new crops that have high leafy biomass production per acre.

“Finding sustainable, plant-based alternatives to fossil fuels is a high priority worldwide. Current sources, however, are inherently inefficient and require high levels of energy to produce. And with pressure on arable land resources needed for food production, it’s been a challenge to develop truly sustainable plant-based fuels,” says Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. “Successful development of new crops that produce oil in all parts of the plant can measurably increase oil production per acre and offer a more sustainable bioenergy alternative.”

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