Hot Spots: Top 5 Places to Watch in Florida

September 9, 2017 |


With Hurricane Irma viciously plowing through Florida, the Digest takes a look at advanced bioeconomy innovators and companies in the Sunshine State that isn’t getting much sunshine right now. Florida is a hot state, in more ways than one, and we cover the Top 5 hottest Florida spots that hopefully remain intact or recover quickly after Irma’s impact, especially those in the mid and southern parts of the state that are getting pummeled by Irma the hardest. In fact, if you do a Google search for “biofuel” in Florida, you’ll notice most of the results show biofuel plants or facilities in the southern part of Florida.

Even companies based in California, like Greenbelt Resources Corporation, announced they are postponing the analyst call that was scheduled for this Wednesday. Greenbelt stated in a press release that while there is no material threat or negative impact of either storm to Greenbelt’s actual initiatives, current communication flow, both internally and with external colleagues in the southeast (most notably in Louisiana and Florida) have been and will be disrupted, and may continue to be problematic due to the existing and threatened hurricane impacts.

Greenbelt listed clients and colleagues at the University of Florida and the Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Center, legal counsel at Legal and Compliance, and their CFO Joe Pivinski as being located in affected areas. The call will be rescheduled early in the third quarter as soon as communication flow returns to normal and all parties are able to recommit to a reliable schedule.

Here are the Top 5 advanced bioeconomy locations and companies to keep an eye on in Florida as they recover from the wrath of Irma.

  1. Fort Myers

Irma’s eye headed towards Florida’s West coast, which is exactly where Algenol is headquartered in Fort Myers. Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company that is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels, chemicals and biobased materials.

Formed in 2006, the company operates in multiple sectors: AgTech, natural food colorants, biofertilizer biostimulants, human and animal food protein, plus Contract research, development and manufacturing, Algal product research and development, Synthetic biology, Photobioreactor-based algae production tolling and biofuels.

While the CEO resigned in 2015 and 25% of staff got cut during the reshifting from biofuels to carbon capture and other projects, as reported by the Digest back in 2015, things are looking brighter for this facility which covers 43,000 square feet and includes 40 acres of photobioreactors – assuming they get through Irma unscathed. Algenol Senior VP Jacques Beaudry-Losique gave this illuminating overview of the company’s progress at ABLC 2017 earlier this year and as we reported in June 2017, Algenol presented at a DOE workshop on Carbon Capture and Sequestration with relation to algae-based technologies.

  1. Indian River County

Don’t you hate it when you buy something new and break it, like a new car you get into an accident with as you drive out of the dealership or a new dish that you drop and break the first time you use it? Hopefully Alliance Bio-Products won’t be feeling those blues with its new cellulosic ethanol plant in Indian River County, on the East coast of Florida, north of Miami but still far enough south to feel Irma’s impact.

As we reported in July, Alliance Bio-Products, Inc., a subsidiary of Alliance BioEnergy Plus, Inc. received approval from the USDA’s Office of Rural Development for the collateral purchase of the 8 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plant originally built by INEOS New Planet Energy JV, and operated intermittently between 2012 and 2015 as INEOS sought to stabilize and demonstrate the technology, hoping to build a chain of cellulosic ethanol facilities around the world. The approved purchase includes the fully functional plant, 143+ acres that the plant resides on, and all related equipment and vehicles.

The company made an offer to purchase the 8MMGY ethanol facility with the intention of converting the current process into its patented Cellulose to Sugar (CTS) process under an agreement with Alliance BioEnergy. By renovating the plant and utilizing a state-of-the-art fermentation and distillation system already in place, and with an abundance of free feedstock available, Bio-Products believes it can increase production capacity and profitability of its sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based fuels and other products. The plant also sits on a large parcel of land that would allow Bio-Products to expand as demand increases.

Bio-Products said that expects to begin production at the plant by summer of 2018 and will create about 100 permanent jobs in the short term with possibly more in the future, but that was before Irma.

  1. St. Lucie

There isn’t anything sweet about a hurricane, but for any growers who have land and crops decimated, there could be some sweet options like sugar beets and sorghum. In August, we reported that Tropicana and local partners are finishing up an 18-month R&D project funded by a USDA Rural Development grant that is determining the viability of growing sugar beets in St. Lucie county for aviation biofuel production. The crop’s cycle fits in well with citrus and could be an opportunity for local farmers to diversify and reduce impacts from citrus greening that has damaged the local economy. The results of the Farm to Fly – From the Ground Up Research Study so far have been promising.

In October 2016, the Digest reported that at the biennial CAAFI (Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative) meeting in Washington DC, Florida’s Treasure Coast development chief Ben DeVries presented the compelling economics for growers to replace acreage lost to citrus greening with sweet sorghum used as feedstock for advanced jet biofuels. With sugar costs below 9 cents a pound and yet compelling economics for the grower, it’s a rare look at how to make money off renewable jet fuel. And considering Irma may knock out many acres of land, rebuilding with sweet sorghum which you can grow and harvest in just a few months, could be a good option for growers who don’t have money or time to wait years to harvest crops.

  1. Gainesville

No income tax, sunny weather, there are many reasons people and companies want to move to Florida. But one expansion that is looking at Florida as a possible location may think twice after Hurricane Irma, and may instead prefer a less hurricane prone state. As we reported in August, Brazil’s Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira shortlisted four potential sites for its expansion into the US: North Carolina’s Research Triangle; Gainesville, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Missouri. The expansion is aimed at integrating expertise on new sugarcane gene technologies not easily found at home. The Florida and Louisiana sites offer obvious sugarcane connections, the RTP offers sorghum and biotech experience along with Bayer CropScience while Missouri has Monsanto and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to offer. We are still awaiting word on what location they will choose for their expansion and wonder if Irma will have an impact on their decision.

  1. Jupiter

Not the planet, but a town in Palm Beach County in southern Florida, Jupiter is the headquarters for Dyadic International Inc. Why do we care about a global biotech company that focuses on the biopharmaceutical industries? Because they also develop, manufacture and sell enzymes and other proteins for the bioenergy, bio-based chemical, and industrial enzyme industries as well. In fact, they signed a collaboration agreement back in 2014 to commercialize second generation biofuel and bio-based chemical technology with Compagnie Industrielle de la Matière Végétale, a pioneer in developing processes for the production of biofuels and bio- based chemicals. The Digest also reported in August that Dyadic International, Inc.’s Board of Directors authorized a new stock repurchase program, under which the Company may repurchase up to $5 million of its outstanding common stock.

If Dyadic staff need a few beers after dealing with Irma, they can visit nearby Delray Beach’s Saltwater Brewery, which developed the first ever biodegradable six-pack rings composed of brewery byproducts like wheat and barley, as reported in NUU in February. The brewery was offering to fill up up to 10 gallons of water for locals during the hurricane prep last week, but we have a feeling we’ll all need something a bit stronger than water after Irma.

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