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US company turns papaya into biofuels

Florida-based company BioTork has converted papayas into fatty acids which it says can be refined into biofuels.

Under a research development programme working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC) and Rivertop Solutions, BioTork says this discovery is a positive breakthrough for the local agriculture and military markets.

The technology works by developing strains of microorganisms, algae and mushrooms which consume papaya waste. This process converts sugars within the waste stream into oils that are able to be used in biodiesel and green jet fuel.

The company is currently working on increasing its production from 15 litres to 200 litres and within the year hopes to further raise this to 2,000 litres. PBARC is the USDA research centre behind increasing the volume of biofuels produced.

‘The technology adapts the microorganisms to industrial conditions where toxins, temperature, pH levels, pressure and other variables can be inhibitors to their growth rate,’ explains Ziad Ghanimi from BioTork to Biofuels International.

He says this method has the ‘potential to increase yield with no additional investments’ because microorganisms developed by BioTork have the ability to convert more sugars in the feedstock which means increased production from the same quantity of entrant. He adds that it has the ‘potential to reduce production costs by simplifying production processes’.

‘Microorganisms developed by BioTork have the ability to grow and perform their task under harsh industrial conditions, which can substantially simplify production processes and reduce productions costs,’ says Ghanimi.

He says this enables the biomass to be grown in many different environments and also means other microorganisms developed, such as those from woodchips and other perennial crops, can also be used for biofuel production.

There are also economical benefits as tonnes of fruit and vegetables are thrown away every year and often this costs farmers money. ‘For every three papayas that the packing houses pay for to the farmers, two papayas are thrown away or left on the tree for purely cosmetic reasons. This loss is entirely borne by the farmers. If the papaya production that is wasted today is used for biofuel production and high value feed for fish and livestock, this could increase the farmers’ revenue by 20% to 30%,’ explains Ghanimi.