Farm Progress

Startup ZeaKal Inc. developed a new corn variety with the potential to increase corn oil production by 80 pounds per acre.

Bloomberg, Content provider

March 19, 2024

1 Min Read
Corn kernels

By Gerson Freitas Jr.

ZeaKal Inc. said it has developed a new variety of corn with higher levels of oil as the San Diego-based startup seeks to capitalize on a boom in demand for renewable energy.

The company, which is part funded by seed giant Corteva Inc., said in a statement that first-year field trials with corn hybrids genetically modified to sustain photosynthesis for longer showed an increase of 23% in their oil composition. That means the variety has the potential to increase corn oil production by about 80 pounds per acre, the company said by email in response to questions. 

ZeaKal’s push for oilier crops comes at a time when demand is surging for feedstock for the production of renewable diesel, a biofuel that’s chemically equivalent to petroleum-based fuel and is often touted as one of the best ways to cut emissions from the hard-to-electrify heavy transportation sector. If the new technology proves its potential, that could reduce the need for additional acres to be planted to meet energy demand, reducing the carbon intensity of biofuels. Corn oil is also a key ingredient in animal feed. 

“This trait technology allows us to elevate the overall value of US corn and creates a differentiated, value-added product that addresses industry demand,” said Han Chen, chief executive officer of ZeaKal, in a statement. “Corn oil is the most valuable component coming out of biorefining,” he added in a separate message.

The startup aims to have the new corn variety approved and ready for commercialization in the U.S. market by 2027, pending further testing. The company plans to start commercializing this year a new soybean variety that relies on the same technology.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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