Two local firms are in the news this month,young companies who are making strides by adding value to staple crops.
AGR Partners, a firm launched by local ag processing investor Ejnar Knudsen has opened a new office in Davis to add to their local digs in Visalia as well as Chicago. “We are not leaving Visalia“ maintains Knudsen who says he is moving his family to Davis but that two new employees have been added in Visalia. The company made news recently in a new 10 million hen egg operation to be located in the Central Valley with AGR invested Opal Foods as one of the partners. Local feedmill owner Kevin Kruse is another partner in the big project- Central Valley Eggs LLC. AGR has also invested in Almark Foods – a leading provider of hard-boiled, peeled eggs to retailers, convenience stores, restaurant chains and salad manufacturers nationwide. AGR also invested in a farmed salmon operation.Since launching two years ago, AGR has made $150 million in investments, and it has access to $650 million in deployable funds they say.
Hitting The Biofuel Jackpot
Meanwhile another high tech firm – EdenIQ based in Visalia – has hit the jackpot in the long time goal of making renewable fuel from corn waste and selling the technology worldwide.The firm with 32 employees in the Visalia Industrial Park has had been the subject of a merger with a Cupertino firm, Aemetis until the deal, announced in May, collapsed a few weeks ago. Aemetis says that on August 29, 2016 they received a notice from EdenIQ to terminate the merger agreement. On August 31 Aemetis filed suit to require EdenIQ to fully perform its obligations under the merger agreement.
EdenIQ, a private company founded in 2008, has raised approximately $100 million from some of the world’s leading venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Angeleno Group, The Westly Group, I2BF Global Ventures, and other leading investors, as well as U.S. Department of Energy grant funding.
EdenIQ’s patented technology is commercially proven, with 29 of the company’s Cellunators installed in six U.S. ethanol plants. EdenIQ has also signed several license agreements for its Pathway technology, which integrates the mechanical Cellunator equipment with cellulase enzymes to convert corn kernel fiber to cellulosic ethanol.
According to Aemetis in 2015, EdenIQ generated approximately $20 million in revenue and $6 million in positive EBITDA. Headquartered in Visalia, California, EdenIQ employees are working at advanced research and development facilities, as well as pilot plants funded through grants from the DOE and the California Energy Commission.
They built a pilot ethanol plant in Visalia that now that their technology is no longer experimental – is not being used.
According to published reports – Aemetis was to buy EdenIQ for $23 million. But in a magazine article in Biofuel Digest the point was made that the payout may have been too low now that EPA has approved the company’s technology.The potential profitability is up with the EPA’s seal of approval that can be sold to many of the existing corn-based ethanol plants in the US to up each producer’s profitability.
CEO of EdenIQ announced the importance of the EPA approval this month of their, so-called Pathway technology.
“This approval is a landmark for the ethanol industry and our company,” said Brian Thome, President and CEO of EdenIQ. “This opens the door for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber in existing fermentation vessels to drive yields to 3 gallons per bushel. While we have long heard the story – ‘Cellulosic ethanol will be here in five to ten years,’ EdenIQ’s Pathway Technology for profitably producing cellulosic ethanol is here today. A 120 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant can increase its revenue by up to $10 million or more through integration of Pathway, with very little investment and a less than one-year payback. This is a game-changer for the cellulosic ethanol industry, which has historically focused on investing in new plants.”
Another company Pacific Ethanol says they will install the technology at their Stockton ethanol plant enabling them to claim credit for making highly valued cellulosic ethanol with EPA-approved RINS attached. A Renewable Identification Number (or RIN) is a serial number assigned to a batch of biofuel for the purpose of tracking its production, use, and trading as required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Cellulosic RINs attached to a batch of fuel are worth an extra $1.94 a gallon says the Biofuel Digest article.
According to Pacific Ethanol ”With the high-value D3 RINs, the carbon credit under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and the federal Second Generation Biofuel Producer tax credit, we expect that cellulosic ethanol production will materially contribute to the profitability of our Stockton facility.”
They plan to add the technology to other Pacific Ethanol plants.
That’s why EdenIQ is now being called ”a Billion Dollar Baby” in the September 13 article in Biofuel Digest.
And it’s right there in Visalia.