SG Biofuels, Inc., a bioenergy crop company focused on the development and production of elite seeds of Jatropha, plans to establish an advanced Jatropha research and development center located in San Diego, Calif.

Through advanced breeding and biotechnology tools, SG Biofuels is improving Jatropha that significantly enhance yields while reducing production costs. Earlier this year the company introduced its first elite Jatropha cultivar—JMax 100—with projected yields 100 percent greater than existing commercial varieties of the crop, increasing profits for growers by more than 300 percent. Production costs for JMax 100 are approximately $1.40 per gallon. (Earlier post.)

The new center will include a 42,000 square-foot greenhouse featuring the largest and most diverse collection of Jatropha genetic material, world class laboratory facilities and an expanded team of molecular biologists focused on developing Jatropha as a low-cost, sustainable source of oil.

The greenhouse space will help accommodate the company’s expanding library of Jatropha genetic resources, which now includes more than 6,000 unique genotypes and a large array of Jatropha genetic traits, including traits important for enhanced fruit yield, soil adaptation and improved harvesting, all of which can serve to increase the profitability per acre of the crop.

Our San Diego facilities will serve as the hub for SG Biofuels’ network of global crop improvement centers, bringing together the results of our sophisticated breeding and biotechnology efforts into a central, state-of-the-art development platform.

—Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer

Jatropha curcas is a non-edible, fast-growing, undomesticated shrub that is native to Central America. Its seeds contain large amounts of high quality oil that can be sustainably produced and used for a variety of bio-based materials including biodiesel and feedstock substitutes for the petrochemical and jet fuel industries.

The SG Biofuels science team is led by Chief Scientist Dr. Robert Schmidt with more than 25 years experience in plant molecular biology, Dr. Stephen Briggs and Dr. Martin Yanofsky, both members of the National Academy of Sciences, and Vice President of Molecular Agronomics and Scientific Affairs Eric Mathur.

Mathur, a 30-year industry veteran, most recently served as vice president, agricultural solutions at Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI), where he was responsible for the creation of its first laboratory in La Jolla, Calif.