Performance Plants takes biofuel work to U.S.

Ontario biotech firm Performance Plants plans to develop feedstock crops for cellulose ethanol at a new research centre in New York state.

The Kingston, Ont. company said Wednesday it has established an “American Research Center” at Waterloo, N.Y., about 75 km west of Syracuse, to develop “specialized non-food crops for industries seeking renewable feedstocks for liquid transportation fuels, biochemicals and coal replacement.”

The company, which already operates research facilities at Kingston and Saskatoon and holds patents on a number of gene traits for drought- and heat-tolerant crops, said biomass crops developed at Waterloo will be “adapted to maximize cellulose energy productivity per acre on land less suitable for food or feed production” and won’t compete with staple food crops such as soybeans or corn.

Target crops will include some “highly productive” annual and perennial and grass species such as sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus, the company said.

It plans to use an “Energy Farm” next to its Waterloo facility to evaluate and demonstrate its crops for industrial, agronomic and environmental effectiveness.

Performance Plants said its proprietary technologies will enable crops to produce more energy per acre and reduce the costs to produce each gallon of ethanol.

“PPI’s capacity to deliver innovative products for the biofuels industry is now totally in house, from trait discovery to registered crop seeds for farmers and biomass feedstock for industry,” said Performance Plants president Peter Matthewman in a release Wednesday.

“Our new U.S. biofuels facility signals the company’s intent to be a major North American player in the emerging cellulosic ethanol sector.”

The company said it recently announced a four-year agreement with Lafarge Canada to develop and provide optimized non-food biomass to replace coal at that company’s cement plant at Bath, Ont.

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