The North Dakota State University Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics is part of a grant to develop enhanced energy sugar beets that are optimized for biofuel production. The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-e).
Other partners in the $1.8 million, three-year program are Plant Sensory Systems LLC in Baltimore, Md., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Plant Sensory LLC and the USDA will engineer beets to use fertilizer and water more efficiently and produce higher levels of fermentable sugars, compared with current feedstocks. The energy beets will have lower production costs and increased yield for biofuels without competing against food-grade sugar.
The NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics will lead the project's economic and environmental analyses, says David Ripplinger, bioproducts and bioenergy economist and assistant professor in the department.
The grant recognizes the promise of energy beets as an industrial feedstock and a proprietary yield-enhancing technology to improve the competitiveness of energy beets as a feedstock.
This is good news for the development of the industrial sugar industry in North America, especially in the northern Plains, where there are advantages to growing energy beets, so there are ongoing efforts to introduce energy beets as an industrial crop, as well as the construction and operation of processing facilities and biorefineries, Ripplinger says. ARPA-e funding is extremely competitive, so the projects it selects become very high profile.