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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

BEV, Chevron, United invest $25 million in algae firm Viridos

Photo: Viridos Inc.

Algae developer Viridos Inc., a company formerly known as Synthetic Genomics, announced March 13 that it has raised a $25 million Series A equity investment led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and joined by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and United Airlines Ventures.

Viridos said the funding will be used for R&D to further increase algae-oil productivity to reach commercially deployable levels.

The funding announcement in mid-March comes after reports last month of longtime Viridos funder ExxonMobil cutting ties with the algae company.

Viridos said its bioengineering of microalgae has already achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to wild algae.

“Viridos’ bioengineering technology consists of genetically engineering algae, combined with optimized production processes and systems to enable large scale production,” the company stated.

The company’s approach “combines several important and unique attributes contributing to scalability and sustainability,” it stated. “Surface area oil productivities of Viridos algae far exceed any traditional oil crop, achieving high algae-oil output on comparatively small areas. Viridos algae are grown in vessels containing seawater. This allows contained deployment in hot and dry locations without taxing scarce freshwater and arable land resources, while eliminating runoff. Viridos algae have extremely high oil contents facilitating downstream processing to algae oil. Viridos algae oil is a quality plant oil allowing existing biorefineries to process the oil with high yields.”

Oliver Fetzer, CEO of Viridos, said, “By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land. We are excited to have the support from BEV, the leading energy-transition venture-capital fund, Chevron and United Airlines. Together we can build the ecosystem needed to bring algae biofuels to the market. We look forward to bringing our oil-producing algae to commercial readiness and then growing them to produce scalable quantities of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel.”

Carmichael Roberts with BEV added, “Oliver and his team at Viridos have a promising technology for converting algae into sustainable liquid fuels. The science behind their platform positions them to crack the code on the critical barriers to scale, making Viridos an important addition to BEV’s portfolio.”

Mike Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, said, “SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock … Viridos’ algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources, and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry Sustainable Flight Fund.”

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