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Waste to Biofuel and Chemicals Project Funded in Hawaii

8 April 2013

Waste to Biofuel and Chemicals Project Funded in HawaiiA zero waste biofuel and high protein feed program in Hilo, Hawaii has been awarded $200,000 by the state Department of Agriculture at a special open house event at the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC).

According to the state the PBARC, together with BioTork Hawaii have invested over $1 million developing an economically sustainable zero waste conversion project, which produces biofuel and high protein animal feed from unmarketable papaya.

BioTork is a Florida based company focused on the development of microbial strains capable of producing bio-based chemical commodities such as lipids, alcohol fuels, enzymes, polymers and other valuable compounds from affordable and renewable organic feedstock.

The conversion process is claimed to take 14 days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed using organically optimised algae/fungi developed and patented by BioTork.

According to Governor Neil Abercrombie the state’s $200,000 investment will assist PBARC in moving the project to pilot scale as a prelude to commercial production.

The State of Hawaii’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) will become a venture partner to globally export the rapid conversion technology in association with PBARC and BioTork Hawaii.

“With this technology, farmers can turn agricultural waste into an additional revenue stream, and local production of biofuel can lower dependence on Hawaii’s import of fossil fuels,” commented Abercrombie.

“Aside from the benefit of producing biofuel, this technology has the ability to create another revenue stream for papaya and other tropical agriculture farmers. Local high protein feed production – another by-product of this process – can greatly benefit cattle, hog, chicken and aquaculture farms through competitive market pricing,” continued the Governor.

The state said that it also hopes to develop a long-term revenue generator as a partner exporting this technology and projected that it could create more than 1000 jobs at full scale.


While papaya was chosen as the initial feedstock, it was claimed that the technology can be applied to any plant material as a carbon source. In Hawaii, other identifiable feedstocks are unmarketable sweet potato, sugar cane, mango, albizia and glycerol.

According to James Nakatani, executive director of the ADC, the development is a major breakthrough that focuses on key components hampering the sustainability efforts of other microorganism based biofuel projects.

“These obstacles include the high cost of feedstock. Approximately 70% of the cost for production is consumed in this area. Using unmarketable plant and other waste materials drastically reduces this cost driver,” he explained.

“While past lab projects have not translated into robust performances when scaled-up, BioTork’s solution promotes rapid and dynamic evolution of microorganisms that are robust even in ‘suboptimal’ conditions,” continued the executive director.

The project will use the research and development funds will be used for customising feedstock formulations to create a zero waste conversion technological library for Hawaii which it can export and sell to other states and countries.

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