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Florida aims to become regional alternative jet fuels hub

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced grants totaling $21.1 million to support the development of new jet fuel, biobased products and biomaterials from renewable sources.

A consortium, led by the University of Florida and called the Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata, has embarked on a $15 million project to develop the inedible oilseed Brassica carnita as a winter crop. The group includes Quebec, Canada-based Agrisoma Biosciences Inc, which has a subsidiary in the United States.

A field of carinata in Quincey  Florida.

A field of carinata in Quincey, Florida.

Agrisoma’s goal is to maximize production of the tiny carinata seed grown in the southeastern US and used to produce bio jet fuel. The plant is a non-edible oilseed member of the mustard family that can be grown on fallow ground in winter without interfering with food production.

“Our research shows that Carinata grows well in the winter when fields are unseeded, giving farmers the opportunity to make a profit on their farms during winter months,” says Steven Fabijanski, PhD., President, and CEO of Agrisoma Biosciences Inc.

The five-year grant will identify and deploy regionally adapted carinata as the basis of a biofuel and bioproduct supply chain that will produce biobased jet fuel for civil and military aviation, industrial chemicals, and animal feed. The work will result in sustainable commercialization of carinata in the Southeast as well as the training of a workforce to support it.

“Our goal is to commercialize Carinata to produce jet fuel and feed for livestock while mitigating risks along the entire supply chain,” says David Wright, project lead and an agronomy professor at the University of Florida.

Harvesting carinata using traditional combine
harvester in Quincy  Florida.

Harvesting carinata using traditional combine
harvester in Quincy, Florida.

Carinata has a number of uses
Not only will the oil from carinata seeds be converted to renewable aviation biofuel to replace fossil jet fuel, but the seed material will be a source of high-value renewable chemicals and animal feed. Not only will farmers realize a cash crop during winter months, but with commercial development, a sustainable supply chain for carinata and its products will be developed.

And according to Biofuel Digest, carinata starch can produce up to 140 gallons of jet fuel per acre, and while this may seem to be very little profit, there’s more to come. Carinata yields have been averaging 200 gallons per acre in trials, and that’s in the 1500-2000 pounds per acre range. Probably the best news? There is no need for a second-step conversion from alcohol to jet fuel.

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