Ceres expands operations to Brazil

By Kris Bevill
Posted August 10, 2010, at 9:12 a.m. CST

Energy crop seed developer Ceres Inc. has formed a Brazilian subsidiary to focus on expanding sweet sorghum as an ethanol feedstock in that region. Ceres Sementes do Brasil Ltda. will be based in Sao Paulo and will be led temporarily by Ceres Chief Financial Officer Paul Kuc.

According to Richard Hamilton, Ceres president and CEO, sweet sorghum offers the Brazilian ethanol industry opportunity for growth and increased profitability. "We believe that new sweet sorghum hybrids will be the lowest-cost source of fermentable sugars in many places, and at times of the year when mills are under-utilized or idle," he said.

Sweet sorghum is already being grown in that area of Brazil, but at a very small scale and not as a biofuel feedstock, said Ceres corporate communications manager Gary Koppenjan. He said the company has received "a great deal of interest" from Brazilian ethanol industry members, who see the crop's potential to extend the sugarcane season and as a possible rotation crop with sugarcane. Ceres is conducting large-scale growing trials in the area and is working with ethanol mills, technology providers and equipment companies to facilitate the introduction of sweet sorghum at area mills. Koppenjan declined to release acreage numbers or specific details regarding which ethanol mills are prospecting sweet sorghum as a feedstock.

Ceres is also conducting sweet sorghum growing trials in the U.S. and has received interest from potential users of the crop in the Gulf Coast region, according to Koppenjan. California-based Amyris Biotechnologies Inc. is collaborating with Ceres to commercialize renewable diesel from sweet sorghum and has targeted potential partners in Hawaii, California, Alabama or Florida.