Linking Biotechnology, Chemistry & Agriculture for a better future

Interested in alternative energy sources? BIO’s World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, on April 27-30 in Chicago, IL, is the forum where experts from around the globe come together to discuss this topic, with major themes around sustainability and climate change.  But let’s not stop there. If industrial and environmental biotechnology is your business — this is a meeting you must attend. 

We’ll have sessions about: synthetic biology and directed evolution, sustainable biofuels, bioplastics, and energycrops.Some examples of our speakers are:

  • Jack D. Newman, Senior Vice President, Research and Co-founder of Amyris
  • Richard Hamilton, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ceres, Inc.
  • Steve Koonin, Chief Scientist of BP
  • Steen Riisgaard, President and CEO of Novozymes A/S
  • Jeff Broin, CEO of POET

 Breakout session topics include:

For more information or to register check out our Web site —  http://www.bio.org/worldcongress2008/

I hope to see you there.

Biofuels Feedstocks – Yield Matters

The following post was submitted by Richard Hamilton, president and CEO of Ceres, Inc.

Technology is playing a critical role in maximizing the inherent advantages of dedicated energy crops. Through advanced plant breeding, public and private researchers are increasing yields both in terms of tons per acre (field yields) and in terms of gallons per ton (through traits that improve conversion). Higher yields not only have a significant impact on reducing production costs of cellulosic biofuels, but there are obvious benefits to land use as well. We will need fewer acres to produce the same amount of biofuels. See the impact of yield with this land-area calculator.

The advantages of dedicated energy crops are well-established. This January, it even became clear that researchers may have been too conservative in their predictions. A large, on-farm study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that switchgrass produces 540% more energy than is used to grow, harvest and process it into ethanol (these calculations were based on actual costs and production data). Likewise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 94% lower than from gasoline.

The most exciting part of this analysis is that this was a baseline study using seed varieties and agronomic practices developed for use in pastures rather than biofuel production.

Today, genomics-based technologies are being used by companies like Ceres to track desirable traits at the DNA level through generations in plant breeding programs, known as marker-assisted breeding. The application of this technology will cut years off development timelines. Many energy crops have undergone little improvement, and large gains are already being made. The first high-yielding dedicated energy crops are scheduled for release next year. Further down the road, biotech traits will offer continued yield and conversion advantages. Predictions of net energy ratios of 10X don’t see so far off anymore.