One of the more interesting pathways in the New Agriculture has been developed by Syngenta, with its Enogen line of corn seeds.
Biofuels booming? It's not just the new transformative processing technologies, it's the new agriculture. Here's what's going on, by whom, and where, when and why.
The Fifth New Path of Agriculture Leads us to Syngenta
5. The Living Bioprocessor
One of the more interesting pathways in the New Agriculture has been developed by Syngenta, with its Enogen line of corn seeds. Enogen is that recently approved, transgenic corn, grown specifically for biofuels production, containing corn amylase – a special set of enzymes that activate at the dry-grind mill, after the corn kernels have been harvested. Those enzymes begin the pretreatment process – essentially, they soften up the corn.
What makes that process transformative is that the enzymes are grown by Mother Nature as the crop grows. No need to grow them in a fermentation tank, using (say) fossil fuel inputs. No need to transport the enzymes to the processing plants. Pre-treatment costs come down, perhaps dramatically, plus enzyme loads.
OK, that’s first generation corn ethanol. What about cellulosic biofuels – can the same thing be done with corn stover? That’s what Agrivida is up to.
“We are expressing all the cell wall degrading systems in the plant,” explains Agrivida CEO Michael Raab, “as the core part of our technology. We can control the activity of those enzymes so that in the plant we can express all the enzymes in dormant form. After harvest, we activate the enzymes in the material, so you don’t have to pretreat in the same way. It makes the process lower temperature, with a moderate PH, and takes out a lot of capital costs and those high costs of dilute acid pretreatment. Also, we really reduce the enzyme loading.”
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