By 2010, there will be specially-grown, high-yielding corn, grain sorghum and sugarcane plants grown specifically for cellulosic ethanol. Those new plants could come from a Kansas-based company called Edenspace, a company that announced today it is moving its corporate headquarters from Dulles, Virginia to Junction City.
"We knew northern Virginia was not the place for a crop bioscience company," says Bruce Ferguson, co-founder of Edenspace. "We wanted to locate to the ethanol belt."
Junction City won out, in part due to a package of incentives that include relocation for Edenspace and some employees, plus a rent-free building owned by Junction City and Geary County, paid for by Industrial Revenue Bonds.
Junction City's commitment to bioscience, and the synergies provided by close proximity to Kansas State University, its tie to agriculture and the state of Kansas commitment to bioscience also factored in, Ferguson says.
Edenspace, on the Internet at www.edenspace.com, plans to become a "leading supplier of seed and technology to the renewable fuels industry, helping reduce the cost of cellulosic ethanol with improved feedstocks," Ferguson says. The company's products will allow ethanol producers to use the entire plant, but plants will create its own enzymes that reduce the need for pretreatment and processing costs by more than 70%, he adds.
The product, called Energy Corn, will double ethanol yield per acre of corn compared to grain ethanol alone, Ferguson explains.
"This is an exciting opportunity. By taking all the leaves and stems to produce cellulolosic ethanol, we can produce half this country's fuel needs," he predicts. "To use cellulosic ethanol today is too expensive. Adding heat, enzymes and acid to the treatment process alone will add $1.20 per gallon to the cost of ethanol alone."
The company's first products should be available by 2010, Ferguson says. Edenspace will have two approaches. It plans to license the EnergyCorn trait to seed companies and perhaps have a few hybrids to market directly to farmers. For grain sorghum, switchgrass and sugarcane, Edenspace plans to sell varieties directly to farmers.
Bruce Ferguson, president of Edenspace
"There is much less research and development in these crops than there is in corn, so we plan to market these to farmers ourselves," Ferguson says.
Edenspace works closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.; ICM, an ethanol company based in Colwich and just received $2.8 million U.S. Department of Energy funding for its research.
Edenspace will bring about 30 agricultural biotechnology and renewable energy jobs to Junction City; the company says a potential new corporate collaboration with Kansas State University was one factor in choosing Junction City over more than a dozen other potential locations throughout the country.
This is the second bioscience company to move to Junction City in the last six months. In September, 2006, Ventria BioScience, which harvests a specialty protein from genetically-modified rice plants, announced plans to build a bioprocessing facility in Junction City. Work is underway on that project now.
More will come, says Angela Kreps, president of Kansas Bio, a not-for-profit company that serves as the voice for bioscience industry and research in Kansas.
"Exciting things are happening in the Kansas bioscience industry," she says. "We say 'bring it on.' We're ready for more."