Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. plans to market its agricultural seeds and traits under the trade name Blade Energy Crops in the United States. Company president and CEO Richard Hamilton unveiled the new brand at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Chicago earlier today.
"Blade will be the first multi-crop seed brand supplying the new market for non-food, low-carbon biofuel feedstocks," Hamilton said.
Seed supplies of the first products to be sold under the Blade name are currently being multiplied for Spring 2009 sowing. These include the nation's first switchgrass cultivars developed specifically for biofuels, EG 1101 and EG 1102, as well as high-biomass types of sorghum. "We expect the seed market for dedicated energy crops to grow in step with investments in bioenergy," Hamilton said.
Ceres vice president of commercial development Anna Rath says that feedstock supply has become a top-of-mind question for many biofuel producers as the industry moves from pilot-scale to demonstration and commercial-scale projects.
"We are working with biorefineries to set up feedstock supplies, offering support in crop selection and agronomy as well as the opportunity for an assured supply of seed. Most biofuel producers will use a mix of crops to mitigate risk and to provide flexibility from year to year," said Rath. She noted that high yielding, dedicated energy crops are needed in many places since widely dispersed sources of biomass are cost-prohibitive to collect and transport. "This issue becomes more evident as scale is increased," she said.
Yesterday, Sustainable Business.com reported that Monsanto and Mendel have formed a partnership aimed at producing feedstock crops as well. One of the great appeals of energy crops is that they can thrive on agricultural lands that are ill-suited to food production.
Due to their high yields, energy crops can produce more fuel per-acre than first-generation biofuel crops, and further mitigate greenhouse gas emissions since these new crops require fewer inputs and actually build new topsoil, Ceres said in a statement. Ethanol made from switchgrass, for instance, produces 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum, and nearly five times more net energy than starch-based ethanol.
The company says the Blade name was inspired by its first crops, switchgrass, sorghum and canes, which are from a category of closely related grass species, known as C4 grasses.
Ceres, Inc. is a developer of energy crops that can be planted as feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production and biopower. Its development efforts cover switchgrass, sorghum, miscanthus, energycane and short-rotation woody crops. Ceres holds one of the world's largest proprietary collections of fully sequenced plant genes. The privately held company also licenses its technology and traits to other organizations.