Midori Renewables: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

May 7, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoMidori invented a catalyst technology that, according to the company, “will transform the entire value chain for converting most cellulosic biomass to high-quality sugars. It is unique because it is a solid material that can be recovered during the process and reused multiples times.”

Midori Renewables is globally deploying the technology — which “melts cellulosic biomass to produce usable sugars”. These sugars can be used as a feedstock for production of a variety of renewable products such as fuels and chemicals, as well as feed and sweeteners. The company indicates that the technology “has overcome the challenges that previous processes have faced in converting cellulosic biomass into usable sugars.”

The Situation

Over at Midori HQ, the focus has shifted decisively towards nutrition and therapeutics in the near-term, where higher-margin markets await. As the company notes, “A massive opportunity exists to convert carbohydrates that damage our health into carbohydrates that benefit it, without sacrificing the taste, functional, and economic aspects of our food,”, and to that end the company has its Glycanogen technology to “produce complex carbohydrates that improve the nutritional profile of everyday foods by reducing the risk of developing microbiome-related diseases”.

Midori also says it is “developing its technology for targeted therapeutic applications that address these major microbiome related diseases.”

To that end, two key Midori hires point the direction for the near term. Raffi Mardirosian was tapped as President, after leading  business development at Pronutria, a protein nutrition technology startup aimed at tackling protein-energy undernutrition, and later he co-developing the first utility-scale solar power generation project in East Africa in Rwanda. Chief Business Officer for Midori is Lloyd Kunimoto, former Chief Business Officer of Sapphire Energy and Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at Pacific Biosciences and Vice President, Corporate Strategy for Monsanto. So, think: nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.

At the same time, the opportunity is still on for renewables. The ability to produce fuels, chemicals, feed, and other products from plant-based sugars provides a sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum-based processes. Midori Renewables is “globally deploying its patented technology that melts cellulosic biomass to produce high-quality sugars.”


The Midori process is flexible and can hydrolyze a wide variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, oil palm resides, wheat straw, beet pulp, municipal waste, and more. The composition of the mixed sugar stream resulting from Midori’s hydrolysis technology can be tailored to meet customer requirements.


Deploying through strategic partnerships.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #47, 2013/14

30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals: #30, 2013/14

The Situation:

About a year ago, a little-known company called Midori Renewables picked up some traction from the invited international selectors in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy. The company’s foundational technology had only started coming forward in 2010 and the venture was very much in stealth mode, out of the Flagship VentureLabs – the source of companies such as Joule Unlimited.

The promise of the technology was simple: a revolutionary way to deliver low-cost sugars — perhaps the most stubborn barrier between cellulosic biofuels as a triumph in the lab, and cellulosic biofuels as a triumph at the pump.

The technology may surprise. There’s no biology in it, really – no enzymes, no magic micro-organism — fungus, yeast, bacteria, protein, aqueous acid, or what have you. It is a solid material — though one temporarily shrouded in some mystery — but one that reportedly can be easily separated from the reaction and reused, resulting in a significantly lower cost solution than existing technologies.

“People have been trying to cost-effectively break down cellulose in biomass for more than 100 years, and we have finally done it,” said Dr. Brian Baynes, Founder and Chairman of Midori and Partner at Flagship VentureLabs. “It’s a little like taking biomass and baking a cake,” said Baynes. “You mix it up with the catalyst, shove it into an oven — or, at scale, into a reactor.

“The sugars are melted of of the cellulose. You wash it with water, until you have a stream that looks like maple syrup, then you separate out all the solid residuals. It’s not hard for that step, because the trick is that we are using a very dense material that sinks very rapidly to the bottom of the reactor where it is recovered for re-use.”

Past Milestones:

In September 2013, Flagship VentureLabs announced that Midori Renewables is globally deploying their Breaking the Biomass Barrier technology, a novel catalyst that melts non-food biomass into low cost sugar, enabling the production of many valuable renewable products and animal feed. Midori’s catalyst is a solid material, not an enzyme, micro-organism, or aqueous acid, that can be easily separated from the reaction and reused, resulting in a significantly lower cost solution than existing technologies.

In September 2013, Midori Renewables was awarded patents for its family of novel solid catalysts that can be used to convert lignocellulosic biomass to sugars and renewable fuels and chemicals. These catalysts contain multiple chemical functionalities that work together under moderate conditions to break down cellulosic material into high quality sugars. Unlike aqueous acids and enzymes, Midori’s catalysts are solid particles, easily recovered via a low energy process, and re-used to reduce the cost of cellulosic sugar production.

Future Milestones:

Commercial demonstration plant.

First commercial scale deployments.


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