San Diego-based SG Biofuels secured a series A investment of $9.4 million led by two privately held companies involved in the development of renewable energy, chemicals and biotechnology, Flint Hills Resources in Kansas, and Life Technologies Corporation in Carlsbad, Calif.
SG Biofuels catalogs, develops and produces seeds for a crop called jatropha, which is a drought-resistant plant used to make biodiesel, jet fuel, soaps, organic fertilizers, medicines and pesticides.
Two United Nations agencies (the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development) reported in July that jatropha seeds “can be processed into lower-polluting biodiesel than fossil diesel to provide light and cooking fuel for poor rural families… [and] seed cake, a by-product from this process, can be used as fertilizer and animal feed after detoxification.”
Because some other biofuel crops — like corn, soy or sugar cane — could be used for food, jatropha is frequently regarded by environmentalists as a more favorable potential source of biofuels. Yet the crop is not without controversy. Jon R. Luoma wrote last year in e360, a publication from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies:
“Whether jatropha will turn out to be the wonder plant it was originally touted to be will depend a great deal on how and where it is grown — an issue that must be resolved by scientists, businesses, and governments.”
Jatropha plantations displaced food crops in the Philippines, and in order to cultivate jatropha, forestry groups in India drained rice fields and reclassified public land where rural farmers had previously been able to let their livestock graze, Luoma reported.
SG Biofuels says its “crop improvement platform” has doubled the yield of jatropha, while reducing input costs for growers.
Jatropha image via: Ton Rulkens