The castor plant produces a seed with oil inside that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
Now, unique castor seed varieties developed by Israeli company Casterra will provide the basis for a new biofuel for countries in Africa.
The Rehovot-based company, a subsidiary of computational biology company Evogene, is developing and commercializing high-yielding castor bean seeds as a cost-competitive, sustainable, second-generation feedstock for the growing biofuel market.
Casterra has built its collection of proprietary seeds from more than 300 castor lines from 40-plus geographic and climatic regions, applying advanced breeding methods utilizing Evogene’s GeneRator AI technology.
These hardy seed varieties can be cultivated on marginal land areas that otherwise would not be used for agriculture. The seeds have an oil-rich content and can be harvested mechanically for greater efficiency and lower cost.
Eyal Ronen, CEO of Casterra, said biofuel production from castor oil “has been proven to be a highly clean and effective source of renewable energy” but it has been too costly for mass commercialization until now.
Casterra’s strategic partner, Ronen said, is one of the world’s seven major oil companies.
The agreement’s initial focus is the purchase of castor seed varieties from Casterra for growing in specific African territories, and the provision of technical support.
The agreement also allows for the potential for long-term cooperation in castor cultivation between this customer and Casterra, and to expand into additional territories on the African continent.
“We are very proud to be supporting a major multinational energy company by providing our advanced castor seed varieties and guiding their activities in the castor cultivation arena,” Ronen said. “This new agreement has significant potential for future growth and strengthens our position in the castor biofuel market.”