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Bionavitas, Blue Marble Team Up For Algae-to-Chemicals

10 October 2009 2,030 views No Comment

Two Seattle-area startups are looking to combine technologies to turn algae into biochemicals, with food additives on the list of potential products.

Under the partnership announced Friday, Redmond, Wash.-based Bionavitas will grow algae, and Seattle-based Blue Marble Energy will turn it into “high-margin” biochemicals.

Bionavitas has come up with acrylic rods that can carry sunlight deeper into algae ponds, theoretically increasing the depth at which the water-borne plants can grow, an important consideration for costs of open-pond algae systems (see Green Light post).

The company, founded in 2006 and funded by angel investors including founder and CEP Michael Weaver and former Microsoft treasurer Craig Watjen, also wants to use its light rods to bring electrical light to algae grown in closed bioreactors.

As for Blue Marble, it has talked about using its AGATE (acid, gas and ammonia targeted extraction) technology to turn algae into industrial chemicals like propyl butyrate (see Green Light post), as well as additives for food and beverages (see Dow Jones article).

Blue Marble raised $1 million of a $2 million round in April, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The investor, Rajiv Shah, is involved in bottling and distributing beverages in eastern Africa, Blue Marble CEO Ogilvie told Dow Jones.

Bionavitas and Blue Marble aren’t the only companies looking to the smaller, but potentially higher-value biochemical market as an alternative to making biofuel.

South San Francisco-based startup LS9, on top of its plant to make biofuel from sugar using genetically engineered microbes, has a partnership with consumer products giant Procter and Gamble focused on biochemical’s, for example (see LS9, Procter and Gamble Ink Biochemicals Partnership).

Boulder, Colo.-based OPX Biotechnologies is seeking to make both biodiesel and bioacrylic (see OPX Lands $17.5M for Bioacrylic, Biodiesel).

San Diego-based Genomatica is making industrial chemicals MEK and BDO using sugar and genetically engineered microbes (see Genomatica: Microbe-Made-Chemicals Could Save Empty Ethanol Plants).

And Golden Valley, Minn.-based Segetis wants to use a thermochemical process to turn cellulosic biomass into a chemical called levulinic ketal, which can be transformed into a variety of chemicals (see Segetis: Making a Brand New Biochemical).

Algae has emerged as a particularly attractive, yet challenging, feedstock for biofuel and biochemical production, with at least 57 companies now trying to bring it to commercial viability (see Green Light post).

While algae can be grown at volumes per acre that dwarf land-based crops, growing and harvesting it in cost-effective ways has proven quite daunting, however (see How to Rate An Algae Company).

Making algae into nutraceuticals rather than fuel is an attractive way for startups to secure revenue streams, Bionavitas’ Weaver told Xconomy in May.

Growing algae to filter wastewater can add another revenue stream to the sale of biochemicals, something both Bionavitas and Blue Marble have cited as a potential part of their business.

By:Jeff St. John

source from :greentechmedia.com

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