Ceres, Inc, an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., signed a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale. Raízen has conducted field and industrial evaluations of Ceres’ sweet sorghum hybrids since 2011.
Sweet sorghum can extend the ethanol production season by up to 60 days in Brazil. It can be grown on fallow sugarcane land and processed using the same equipment. Since it grows in as few as 90 to 120 days, it requires less water and other inputs than sugarcane. Raízen, a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan, has taken an interest in developing and scaling up sweet sorghum as a means to grow margins and increase supply for its sugar and ethanol facilities.
Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres’ sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres’ sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.
he ethanol industry in Brazil has a history of successfully competing against low-priced oil and we believe that sweet sorghum, which has lower production costs than sugarcane, can be further developed and scaled up as an integral part of the industry’s feedstock supply.—Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton
During the past seasons we have made significant and measurable improvements in performance and we remain optimistic that sweet sorghum can be used to rapidly scale up feedstock supplies following the current downturn in the sector.—Antonio Stuchi, Agro industrial director from Raízen
In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the US, Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.
Raízen is Brazil’s fifth largest company in terms of revenue and the nation’s leading producer of sugarcane ethanol. With 24 sugar and ethanol facilities, the company produces more than 2 billion liters of ethanol, 4.5 million tons of sugar and 900 MW of electricity from biomass each year. Raízen is also present in 58 airports, has 60 distribution terminals and sells approximately 23 billion liters of fuel to transport segments, industry and retail. Raízen has a network of more than 5,000 Shell brand service stations and more than 900 Shell Select convenience stores.
Ceres develops and markets seeds to produce crops for markets that utilize plant biomass, including biofuels, renewable electricity and livestock feed and forage. Ceres markets its seed products under its Blade brand. The company also licenses its biotech traits and technology, including its Persephone genome visualization software, to other organizations.