Sea6 Energy gets Novozymes partnership for seaweed-fuel research

Sea6 Energy gets Novozymes partnership for seaweed-fuel research

Chennai: Danish company Novozymes A/S, one of the world’s leading industrial biotech companies, has agreed to partner with Indian Institute of Technology-Madras-incubated start-up Sea6 Energy to research the production of bio-fuel from seaweed.

Sea6, formed at IIT Madras in June 2010, has developed a sustainable process for large-scale seaweed cultivation that would be capable of tolerating rough weather, and is testing it with a few fishing communities, according to company chairman Shrikumar Suryanarayan.

The company has also developed a process to take the seaweed to the fuel production stage using limited fresh water. The question was of scalability, Suryanarayan said in an interview last month.

“We have planted a lot of dots and managed to connect the dots with a thin line," he said. “We have shown it’s possible. What remains is to thicken the lines between the dots."

Novozymes may help Sea6 do just that. “Seaweed is a natural complement to our efforts to convert other types of biomass to fuel ethanol," Per Falholt, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Novozymes, said in a release. “More than half of the dry mass in seaweed is sugar, and the potential is therefore significant."

Sea6 hopes to have a pilot plant producing biofuel in about 18 months, Suryanarayan said last month.

The company has been running on investments from friends and family of the co-founders, including Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the chairman and managing director of Biocon Ltd. Suryanarayan, who was Biocon’s head of research, didn’t disclose the value of Shaw’s investment.

Sea6 may approach venture capital investors in the future, Suryanarayan said. The company will be looking to raiseRs50 crore in the next four or five years, he said.

vidya.p@livemint.com

Close