2014 YIR Part 2 — Companies Driving the Industry

Sapphire Energy and their Chinese partner Sinopec were welcomed into the flagship EcoPartnerships Program. Photo: Sapphire Energy

Sapphire Energy and their Chinese partner Sinopec were welcomed into the flagship EcoPartnerships Program. Photo: Sapphire Energy

Much of the development of the algae industry in 2014 was driven by domestic and international alliances, partnerships, and mergers that brought complementary skills and technologies together. These collaborations were forged in record numbers in 2014.

Heliae announced a partnership with Japan-based Sincere Corporation to develop a commercial algae production facility in Saga City, Japan, to supply natural astaxanthin. Photo: Heliae

Heliae announced a partnership with Japan-based Sincere Corporation to develop a commercial algae production facility in Saga City, Japan, to supply natural astaxanthin. Photo: Heliae

Some of the more high profile collaborations:

  • Renewable Algal Energy, a developer of sustainable products from microalgae headquartered in John City, TN, unveiled two powerful international partnerships: one, an off-take agreement with Neste Oil, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel; and two, a deal with Switzerland-based ABB, a leading power and automation technology group, for the commercialization of integrated algal production systems that will produce algae‐based products for the nutraceutical, animal nutrition, and renewable fuels markets.
  • Sapphire Energy and Sinopec, along with five other new U.S.-China partnerships, were welcomed into the flagship EcoPartnerships Program July 10 in Beijing. The Program promotes cooperation between U.S. and Chinese organizations working on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protection.
  • Gilbert, AZ-based Heliae announced a partnership with Sincere Corporation, a Japanese waste management and recycling company, to develop a commercial algae production facility in Saga City, Japan.
  • Also in Japan, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Euglena Co. agreed to work together to develop a new kind of biodiesel using algae, with a goal of establishing the technology by 2018.
  • Synthetic Genomics and Archer Daniels Midland Company brought their powerful combined research, manufacturing, marketing and distribution muscle together and announced that they are entering into a long-term agreement to commercialize omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) from algae.
  • Solazyme’s partnerships in 2014 included Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, to expand the commercial use of Solazyme’s Encapso™ lubricant for drilling fluids. They increased their partnership with AkzoNobel, a leading global paints and coatings company, to grow their surfactant business. Unilever and Solazyme, Inc. announced the introduction of sustainable algal oils for one of Unilever’s biggest soap brands, Lux. The company also announced that its joint venture with Bunge Global Innovation produced its first commercially saleable products on full-scale production lines, at the Solazyme Bunge Renewable Oils plant in Brazil.
  • Imperial, Texas-based Qualitas Health struck a distribution agreement for its Almega PL omega-3 ingredient with Lipa Pharmaceuticals for sale to the dietary supplement industry in Australia & New Zealand.
  • OriginOil Inc. announced that it will provide algae harvesting technology for the low-cost algae growth system from Algasol Renewables. The integrated system will launch at Algasol’s new facilities in Bangladesh – a unique, large-scale demonstration of micro-algae production for fish feed. Near the end of the year OriginOil also announced that it is launching a water cleanup subsidiary in Hong Kong and granting it a master license for the People’s Republic of China.
  • As a sign of support for these international alliances, the US-based Algae Biomass Organization and the European Algae Biomass Association agreed to collaborate to further the development of algae biomass technologies in the U.S., Europe and globally through events, conferences and policy advocacy.
One of OriginOil's 75 GPM flocculation units to be used in their joint venture with Spain's Algasol, in a collaboration on growth and harvest technology.

One of OriginOil’s 75 GPM flocculation units to be used in their joint venture with Spain’s Algasol, in a collaboration on growth and harvest technology.

In what was perhaps the most significant development in corporate algae this year, an executive shakeup rattled the boardrooms of many the industry’s leading companies. Here are some of the ones that got the most notice:

  • Sapphire Energy announced the appointment of biotechnology veteran James Levine as president and CEO, replacing Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner.
  • Synthetic Genomics, Inc. appointed Oliver Fetzer as the company’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO, replacing Founding CEO, J. Craig Venter, who moved to Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Scientist.
  • Aurora Algae Inc. replaced Greg Bafalis with Paul Angelico as President and CEO. Angelico, who spent a year away from the company, served as Chief Operating Officer from 2011 through 2013.
  • At Heliae, Dan Simon stepped down as President and CEO, and J. Craig Johnson, Heliae’s then current CFO, was appointed as interim-CEO.
  • San Diego, CA-based Triton Algae Innovations, a pioneer in synthetic biology, announced that Dr. Xun Wang joined the firm as President and Director of all Research & Development.
  • Joule named Serge Tchuruk President and CEO, succeeding Paul Snaith, who resigned from holding that position since early 2014.
  • Fort Collins, Colorado-based Solix BioSystems, Inc. announced the appointment of Austin Maguire as its President and Chief Executive Officer, replacing Joel Butler.
  • Phytoplankton physiological ecologist Dr. Mike Lomas was selected as the new director of Bigelow Laboratory’s Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA), replacing former Director Dr. Willie Wilson.

If these pivots, replacements, alliances and collaborations achieve their goals, 2015 should shape up to be a year of new directions and successful combinations.

Next: Pt. 3 – Honorable Mentions for 2014.