Hawaii funds biofuel project
Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently presented a $1.6 million check on behalf of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Development Corp. to the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center’s zero-waste biofuel and high-protein feed program on Hawaii Island.
DKI-PBARC, and Florida-based BioTork LLC, have invested more than $1 million to successfully develop an economically sustainable zero-waste conversion project producing biofuel and high-protein animal feed from unmarketable papaya and other low-value agriculture feedstock. The conversion process takes fewer than 14 days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed using organically optimized algae/fungi developed and patented by BioTork.
The state’s $1.6 million is in addition to its initial $200,000 investment that will assist DKI-PBARC in moving the Hilo-based project to demonstration scale as a prelude to commercial production. The ADC will become a venture partner to globally export the rapid conversion technology in association with PBARC and BioTork.
“Our investment promotes further use of agricultural crops to provide clean energy and leads us on a more definitive path towards food sustainability,” Abercrombie said. “We need to focus on projects like this as Hawaii emerges as a global leader for biofuel and feed research and development.”
“Another by-product of this process is the production of high-protein feed and fish feed,” explained Scott Enright, HDOA chair. “The feed can greatly benefit cattle, swine, poultry and support aquaculture operations.”
The state also hopes to develop a long-term revenue generator as a partner exporting this technology. At full scale, more than 1,000 jobs are projected.
While papaya was chosen as the initial feedstock, this technology can be applied to any plant material as a carbon source. In Hawaii, other identifiable feedstocks are unmarketable sweet potato, sugar cane, mango, molasses and glycerol. Invasive trees, like albizia, could also be used as feedstock in this zero-waste program.
It is imperative that we provide support to build the necessary infrastructure which opens up new markets for agriculture,” said Jimmy Nakatani, ADC executive director. “Progress at DKI-PBARC has been nothing less than stellar to accomplish this, through efforts led by Research Plant Pathologist and Program Manager Lisa Keith.”
Funds are also being used to research the conversion of locally produced molasses. Samples from Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. are being tested to determine which high-value and economically viable co-products can be developed using natural methods to create much more value to the local economy.