Yulex: Biofuels Digest 2015 5-Minute Guide

March 18, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoYulex Corporation is a technology, marketing and biomaterial product development company. The company applies seed technology, agronomics, breeding, harvesting, bioprocessing, and materials science for the development of plant-based biomaterials from the renewable, industrial crop Guayule.

That’s pronounced “Y-U-Lee” for those outside its heartland in the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

Guayule is a distant relative of the sunflower and the zinnia, originating from the genetic hotbed of Mexico and is now grown in the US. Why of interest? It’s a source of rubber — and residual biomass for biofuels.

Yulex’s Guayule BioRubber Emulsions and BioRubber Solids can replace traditional tropical or petroleum based rubber for medical, consumer, and industrial applications.

The company collaborates with strategic partners to develop and to market highly differentiated, premium performance products in a clean and responsible way. Additionally, Yulex has a global licensing program. The company envisions a future of fully integrated and sustainable biorefineries that utilize 100% of the Guayule plant to provide a renewable source of natural rubber, resin, specialty chemicals, biomaterials and biofuels on a global basis. Yulex is based in the U.S. Southwest and has a growing global footprint.

The Yulex team has developed a proprietary, patent pending hybrid breeding strategy, which leverages the apomictic nature of guayule to generate hybrid cultivars with improved yields, vigor and uniformity. Collections of diverse cultivars will be deployed in target geographies in order to evaluate yields and identify hybrids with the highest regional performance characteristics. In addition, genetically uniform plants will enable quantitative agronomic evaluations to further improve plant productivity and also permit genomic selection studies designed to rapidly introduce other important plant attributes into Yulex’s elite germplasm.

“Yulex replaces petroleum-based materials with natural, plant-based materials in a zero-waste, clean and sustainable way,” the company says. “Our biomaterials provide an alternative to tropical and synthetic rubber medical, consumer and industrial products and offer a source for bioenergy. We envision a future of fully integrated, sustainable biorefineries that utilize 100% of the guayule plant for natural rubber, resin, and bioenergy applications on a global basis.”

The situation

Yulex designed, constructed and validated the world’s first a commercial, Guayule BioRubber manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Yulex along with consortium partners Cooper Tire, Arizona State University, Cornell University and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were awarded a $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative grant from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy to develop enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of Guayule BioRubber as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as to evaluate the plant’s residual biomass for biofuel applications.

Yulex and Patagonia released the first plant-based wetsuit — the first alternative to the traditional neoprene (petroleum-based) wetsuit. Made from Yulex’s Guayule BioRubber, the wetsuit has 30 percent more stretch, dries faster and keeps surfers warmer.

Biofuels Digest Awards & Rankings

2013: Best New Feedstock (trial)

30 Hottest Companies in Biobased Chemicals & Materials: #28, 2014/15

40 Hottest Small Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy, #5, 2014/15

Major Investors

Argonaut Private Equity – Tulsa, OK

Top Past Milestones

In May 2014, Yulex announced the expansion of its crop science program with the hiring of Eric Mathur as Chief Science Officer and Senior Vice President of Crop Science along with Grant Aldridge as the Vice President of Global Commercial Agriculture Operations. Yulex will expand to San Diego, CA with laboratory, greenhouse and field operations.

In January 2014, Yulex announced the opening of a Seed & Genetics Center focused on plant breeding, molecular genetics and development of agronomic best practices to support the global cultivation of sustainable guayule plantations for medical, consumer, industrial and bioenergy applications. The Center will support the global commercial development of guayule. Guayule plant improvement strategies include novel, non-GMO cultivar development methods which bridge the gap between classical plant breeding approaches and modern molecular technologies; the combined program is designed to maximize plant productivity for large-scale deployment and commercial production of this important new industrial crop. Additional research activities at the Center involve the refinement of sustainable production techniques designed to improve guayule’s rubber yield and quality through natural processes, with a focus on soil management and natural crop production inputs.

In November 2013, SGB and Yulex announced a collaboration to establish a genomics and molecular breeding platform focused on accelerating the crop improvement of Guayule as a sustainable source of biorubber that can replace traditional tropical or petroleum-based rubber for medical, consumer and industrial markets. With traditional rubber, the product is tapped from the tree — in this case, the shrub is harvested, rubber extracted, and the remaining biomass is available for fuels, power and other biomaterial uses, as a cellulosic biomass source. The goal? One metric ton of product per acre per year — competitive with typical rubber yields out of Southeast Asia — by 2018-19. And progress from around half that yield between now and then.

Major Milestone Goals 

Continue to expand the company’s footprint through Yulex’s global licensing program. The Company expects to close its first major licensing deal with a major chemical company

Build and road test the first guayule-based tire.

Launch the first guayule medical/surgical products into the market with FDA approvals

Business Model

Yulex is a technology, marketing and product development company. The company creates innovation with its customers and strategic partners. Yulex develops technology for biobased engineered applications, builds the processing facilities to commercial demonstration scale and liscenses the technology for scale-up and global expansion.

Competitive Edge

Yulex is the first commercial enterprise to produce biobased natural rubber latex in the world.. Additionally, Yulex goes beyond just supplying advanced biorubber materials and offers a full portfolio of customer services, including product design, prototyping, testing, evaluation and small volume runs. The company’s Innovation and Technology Center focuses on three areas: research and development, technical services, and quality assurance. The Company controls the supply chain with advanced breeding programs and agronomic development of the crop.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.

Ansell HealthCare

Ansell recognizes the marketplace need for non-allergenic medical gloves and condoms. Ansell Limited, a global leader in protection solutions, owns a minority share of Yulex. The company also partners with Yulex to development, manufacture and distribute medical gloves, personal protective equipment gloves and condoms made from Guayule Biorubber.

Cooper Tire, ASU, Cornell and ARS

In 2012, Yulex along with consortium partners Cooper Tire, Arizona State University, Cornell University and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were awarded a $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative grant from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy to develop enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of Guayule BioRubber as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as to evaluate the plant’s residual biomass for biofuel applications.

Versalis

In January 2013, ENI’s Versalis and Yulex partnered to produce Guayule BioRubber for consumer, medical and industrial applications. After an initial focus on consumer and medical specialty markets, the target is to optimize the process to reach the tire industry. The companies plan to launch a Guayule BioRubber production complex in Southern Europe, as part of Yulex’s global licensing program.

Gila River Indian Community

Yulex has formed a strong relationship with the Gila River Indian Community, which has played a significant role in the cultivation and development of Guayule for many centuries. Therefore, it is only apt that Yulex has located its bioprocessing facility close to the community South of Phoenix.

Tribal Employment and Rights Office, Gila River Indian community (TERO)

TERO partners with Yulex to provide our primary workforce under the TERO regulations where a company resides on the community’s land.

Lone Butte Development Corporation

Lone Butte Corp. is a wholly owned company within the Gila River community, and operates and manages the industrial park where Yulex’s manufacturing facility is located.

Patagonia

In November 2012, Yulex and Patagonia released the first guayule-based wetsuit in the industry. The wetsuit has 30% more stretch, dries faster and keeps you warmer. Traditionally, all wetsuits are petroleum based. Neoprene, by nature of its production, is the most environmentally harmful part the product. Patagonia’s initial approach was to use innovative materials, like wool, that are highly insulating and allowed them to use as little neoprene as possible. But they quickly realized that they needed to create a new material that could be a true alternative to neoprene. After four years of working together, Patagonia and Yulex have co-developed a wetsuit that is 60% guayule (plant) based. The goal is to have the formula eventually be 100% plant based.

The University of Arizona

The University of Arizona has been a major player in the recent development of guayule as an industrial crop. Agricultural trials for developing better strains of Yulex will be operated at the UA’s Maricopa Agriculture Center. The MAC farm has over 80 acres (32 ha) dedicated to irrigation research. MAC farm personnel have extensive experience with cultivation of semi-arid crops. In June 2013, Yulex provided the University of Arizona with a $3 Million, five-year grant focused on guayule breeding and crop development on a global scale.

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