Sweetwater Energy lands $500,000 venture capital investment

By Bryan Sims | January 05, 2012

Rochester, N.Y.-based cellulosic sugar extraction technology developer Sweetwater Energy Inc. has raised $500,000 in a venture capital round, bringing the total capital raised in the round to $1 million according to a regulatory statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in late December, as the firm prepares to brings its first demonstration-scale cellulosic sugar production facility online this year.

Founded in 2006, Sweetwater utilizes a patent-pending process technology that efficiently breaks down a variety cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural and wood residues, within a contained water-based solution that produces concentrated individual streams of C5 and C6 sugars, which can be used as feedstock for advanced biofuels, biobased chemicals and biobased monomers for plastics production.

Sweetwater’s website says, “The technology uses a unique modular approach to produce sugars that are both less expensive for the end user and far more environmentally friendly than today’s corn-grain-based sugar extraction methods.”

According to Sweetwater, its technology has been validated by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other partner entities to produce highly fermentable sugars for advanced biofuels and biobased chemical conversion processes. Since these sugars are derived from the cellulose and hemicellulose of plant material, yet are fully compatible in today's biorefineries, the company’s technology “will provide a smooth, incremental bridge for these refineries to move from corn-grain feedstocks to the cellulosic feedstocks of the future.”

Also in December, Sweetwater named board chairman Arunas Chesonis as its new CEO. Prior to joining Sweetwater, Chesonis founded telecommunications company PAETEC Holding Corp. in 1996, leading the company as CEO until it was acquired by national telecommunications giant Windstream Corp. for $2.3 billion.

“Sugar is the new oil,” Chesonis said. “Most of the products, including plastics and biochemicals that have been traditionally made from petroleum, are increasingly being made from sugar, a sustainable and renewable resource that we can economically manage. I’ve been working with companies and universities across the renewable energy spectrum in the last several years to develop new technologies that are ready for primetime, and it’s extremely gratifying to join such a promising young company right here in Rochester.”