Syngenta: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 4, 2014 |

(In this profile, we focus on Syngenta’s Enogen corn)

Company description

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.

In Minnesota, Syngenta released a new documentary video called “Ethanol: Fueling Rural America’s Future– One Community at a Time.” The video promotes the ethanol industry’s positive impact on the US economy and American energy independence by bringing together farmers, ethanol producers, and industry advocates on a single platform.

“As ethanol plants have moved into small towns and established their businesses, they have provided well-paying jobs and stabilized the corn market price,” said Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Syngenta. “That income is circulating back through rural communities. With the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) under scrutiny, we wanted to help tell that story.”

The Situation

In September 2013, Syngenta’s Enogen corn variety that has the alpha amylase enzyme needed for ethanol production genetically inserted into the grain was planted on 65,000 acres this year in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. As much as 120,000 acres are expected for planting next year. Three ethanol plants are already signed up to use Enogen, with Quad County in Iowa already using it and Plymouth Energy in Iowa as well as Bonanza BioEnergy in Kansas set to start using it beginning with this harvest.

No surprising that acreage is up, after farmers who have piloted Syngenta’s new ethanol corn hybrid known as Enogen reported a 40 cents per bushel premium over standard corn this season. The ethanol plant in Ida County blended 10% Enogen for this first time this fall. Plymouth Energy and Siouxland Ethanol in Nebraska both plan to process Enogen this coming year.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #61, 2012/13

Biofuels Digest Awards

2012 New Trait Deployment Award: Syngenta – Enogen corn

Major Investors
New York Stock Exchange (SYT)

Type of Technology:

Biotech seeds

Product Cost:

Dry-grind ethanol plants using Enogen corn can realize an additional value of 8 to 10 cents per gallon due to energy savings and increased throughput.

Past Milestones

  • USDA deregulation (February 2011)
  • Establishing trial for proof of performance (Western Plains Energy, 2009-2010)
  • Commercial production of Enogen corn hybrids with yields equal to or greater than hybrids without the technology
  • In December 2012, the company picked up the Biofuels Digest Award for New Trait Deployment, for Enogen corn.
  • Syngenta and Plymouth Energy signed an agreement to use Enogen trait technology starting in fall 2013. Syngenta states that when using Enogen trait technology there is no need to use liquid alpha amylase enzyme for dry grind ethanol production.
  • The technology improves ethanol production while reducing energy, gas and water usage. Syngenta is currently contracting corn growers to grow Enogen corn. Under the agreement, growers will receive a premium price for each bushel of Enogen grain delivered to the ethanol plant.
  • In November 2012, Syngenta announced it had signed a commercial agreement with a Kansas ethanol plant to use grain featuring Enogen trait technology in 2013. Bonanza BioEnergy of Garden City will use the revolutionary technology that allows corn to express a robust form of alpha amylase enzyme, the primary enzyme used in dry grind ethanol production to convert starch to sugars.
  • In September 2012, Syngenta agreed to acquire Pasteuria Bioscience, a US-based biotechnology company. Since 2011 Syngenta and Pasteuria have had an exclusive global technology partnership to develop and commercialize biological products to control plant-parasitic nematodes, using the naturally occurring soil bacteria Pasteuria spp. An in-vitro production process will enable the development of cost-effective nematicides with a novel mode of action. The first product will be a seed treatment for soybean cyst nematode to be launched in the USA in 2014. Under the terms of the agreement, Syngenta will acquire Pasteuria Bioscience for aggregate payments of $86 million, with additional deferred payments of up to $27 million.
  • In June 2013, the anti-GMO political undertone remains as the European Food Safety Authority fails to approve Syngenta’s GMO corn—intended as an ethanol feedstock—due to “insufficient data”, data which the agency claims the company failed to provide in order to allow a full risk assessment. The process has been ongoing for seven years and is now considered closed.
  • In October 2013, Syngenta in North America announced it has signed a commercial agreement with Arkalon Ethanol, LLC based in Liberal to begin using corn that features Enogen trait technology. The ethanol plant will begin using the revolutionary grain, which will replace its liquid alpha amylase, following the 2014 corn harvest.

Future Milestones

  • Proof of contracted production system with ethanol plants
  • Expanded quantification of value added

Business Model: Combination owner-operator and technology licensor

Competitive Edge(s): New to the world product – a commonly used enzyme delivered in a revolutionary way that creates added value for ethanol plants and corn producers alike.

Stage: Commercial


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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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