Crop Enhancement’s yield technologies, algae’s prospects lead in debut of TerraTech radio program

January 9, 2017 |

bd-ts-011016-terratech-cover-smIn Florida, TerraTech, a weekly one-hour radio program on new technologies, rising companies and personalities in the advanced bioeconomy, will debut this Wednesday, January 11th at 9am ET on VoiceAmerica’s Variety Channel. The program will debut here.

The first series will continue for 13 weeks, and will be hosted by Digest editor Jim Lane and is produced jointly by the Digest and VoiceAmerica.

Changing the way we grow

Crop Enhancement’s CEO Kevin  Chen and CTO David Soane, and Algae 2020 author Will Thurmond, will be guests this week as TerraTech looks at what’s new,  cool and sustainable in addressing crop yields.

9 billion people, that’s the population we are going to have by 2050, according to the UN,” said host Jim Lane as the program opens. “That’s a lot of mouths to feed, with the same land base.”  Not to mention, cars to fuel and materials to provide. The drive towards sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials is going to be ultimately limited — or liberated — by the convergence now occurring between life sciences, advanced manufacturing, robotics, big data and materials science.

From seed coatings to tunable release of active nutrients and fertilizers: Crop Enhancement’s emergence

Since late 2011, Crop Enhancement has worked tirelessly to develop a new approach that will help farmers increase crop yields and profitability in a sustainable way. The initial product? CropCoat — agrochemical formulations that employ advanced and environmentally friendly chemistry, to help improve crop yields, eliminate or minimize pesticide use, and enable precise and effective delivery of active ingredients and fertilizers.

Andrew Chung, Founder and Managing Partner of1955 Capital, noted that “Crop Enhancement is a great example of a company that can address two key challenges in the developing world: increasing food production and fostering the development of sustainable agricultural practices.”

CEO Kevin Chen explains, “We have two primary platforms. The first is CropCoat, a non-toxic, biodegradable protective barrier coating that can be sprayed onto all plant surfaces including fruit, leaves, seeds and stems. CropCoat physically prevents pests from attacking crops. It is a mix of environmentally benign organic and inorganic chemical components that are formulated to be compatible, stable in suspension and film-forming.

“We supply CropCoat in a concentrated form that farmers dilute with water to spray on their crops. The water then evaporates, leaving the CropCoat barrier in place. Field studies on cocoa plants have shown that our rain-resistant technology is effective for at least two months, which is four times longer than the pesticides currently in use.

“Our second technology platform provides a vehicle for tunable release of the active ingredients that are commonly used by farmers, including nutrients, insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Our technology works to carry and release common agrochemicals, and we are testing it with biological materials such as microbes. Both our platforms are based on sustainable chemistry, while some of today’s popular controlled-release products on the market are not completely biodegradable.

Algae’s promise and promises

There’s been intense focus on algae as a source of protein, nutraceuticals and as a feedstock for boutique sustainable fuels.

Last month, we reported that the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office released a funding opportunity announcement of up to $8 million, subject to appropriations, for innovative technologies and approaches to help advance bioenergy and bioproducts from algae. The FOA is meant to help develop productivity-enhancing algal biology technologies that can enable doubling the current state of technology for seasonal algal biomass productivities.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) announced that 19 companies have received over $1.9 million in funding from the organization’s Seed Investment Fund — including Manta Biofuel, LLC, located in Baltimore, who is engaged in the production of algae based, renewable crude oil that is cost competitive with traditional fossil based crude.

At ABLC Next in San Francisco, Cellana and PIVEG announced a letter of intent for the joint development and commercialization of Omega-3 oils and other high-value applications from algae biomass.

And as NREL’s Tao Dong wrote recently, “It is well known that oleaginous microalgae are promising for fatty acid production. In addition, microalgae are known to produce diverse volatile compounds, such as terpenoids, phenolics, carotene catabolic products, and etc. It is also possible that microalgae can produce other novel compounds which might serve as potential fuel compounds to enhance engine performance.”

But if there’s promise in algae, there have been promises, especially relating to the pace and milestones related to fuel development — most of them far off the mark. Can productivities begin to approach in the field what has been seen in the lab? Can systems and engineering costs come down to a point where algae supplies “base-load” products like fuels and protein to the market, as opposed to exotic ingredients and nutraceuticals? Can strains be developed that offer sustainable alternatives to terrestrial plants when it comes to the use of arable land and water? TerraTech will look into the state of the art and the state of the industry with longtime sector observer Will Thurmond, whose Algae 2020 series has accurately forecast the repositioning of the industry around high-margin, small-volume products and capital-light projects.

About TerraTech

Each week, TerraTech will feature newsmaker interviews and profiles on: emerging technologies coming out of research labs; emerging companies as investment and partnership opportunities; and new products in the marketplace that change the way people dress, eat, drink, drive, build, package, protect, maintain, and get well.

About VoiceAmerica

VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network is the leading producer, distributor, and online broadcaster of original live and on demand talk radio programming worldwide. The network delivers hundreds of original programs weekly through eight branded channels: VoiceAmerica Variety, VoiceAmerica Empowerment, VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness, VoiceAmerica Business, VoiceAmerica Sports, VoiceAmerica 7th Wave, VoiceAmerica Kids, and VoiceAmerica Women. VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network reaches a rapidly expanding domestic and international audience of millions of listeners every month in more than 140 countries worldwide.

About The Digest

The Digest is the world’s most widely-read bioeconomy daily, reaching 2.25 million readers, viewers and followers in more than 200 countries. The Digest also produces BioChannel.TV, the ABLC Conference series, BioChannel Audio and Nuu, the Digital Voice of the Physical World. Nuu covers advanced genetics, nutrition, biomaterials, renewable fuels, green chemicals, advanced agriculture, robotics, microbes and catalysts.

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