A start-up company, Tyton BioSciences, is looking for a new outlet for tobacco – biodiesel and ethanol. The company is developing genetically modified tobacco that will, according to their website, “produce both ethanol and biodiesel at yields that far surpass the traditional crops of corn and soy.” The company’s tobacco will also be easier to grow than those grown for smoking-grade tobacco and although still in a test phase, the company has successfully extracted sugars for ethanol and oil for biodiesel.
Founder and Managing Director, “Peter Majeranowski, said in an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, that another benefit of using tobacco is that it is not a “food” crop and can “alleviate the complaints that food prices are rising because of demand for crops as fuel.”
According to Majeranowski, farmers will be able to plant 80,000 to 100,000 plants per acre rather than the average 6,000 plants per acre of smoking-grade tobacco. This modified crop can also be mechanically harvested and will be more “green” because it doesn’t need to be dried. In addition, he believes that the tobacco fields for biofuels can be planted and harvested two to three times per year.
“We can chop it close to the ground, and it grows back,” Majeranowski said. “We don’t have to worry about flavor, just how many green leaves and stems we can get per acre.”
The company will hear soon whether it will get a $2.2 million grant from the Tobacco Commission. Company executives have also invested $3 million of their own money and believe combined with the grant, will get their seeds closer to the production stage.