1 -What is the EUnergyCane Consortium?

A group of companies, universities, and government entities directly involved in the improvement of cold-resistant sugarcane called EUnergyCane. This sugarcane variety was developed initially from Alkol Biotech, a UK-based crop improvement company, from naturally ocurring sugarcane varieties from the south of Spain, and is not entering a 2nd phase to make it even more cold-resistant through the use of leading Big Data and genomics techniques.

2 -What is the use of this EUnergyCane?

Many, and that's the beauty of it, as you can see in the list on your right. However, the biggest is to serve as a source of biomass for cellulosic ethanol production in Europe in the year 2020.

3 -Why? What's going to happen in 2020 in Europe?

That year, Europe has decided that 93% of all the ethanol being mixed with gasoline will have to come from cellulose and no longer from sources considered food as sugar. The idea is not to compete with food.

4 -So? Let's use trash, forest and agricultural residues, etc as sources of biomass then

That would be great except for the fact they are unsuitable, as they have too much unwanted bacteria, lignin, chemical contaminants, etc which end up making an ethanol uncompetitive. In fact, the history of this type of ethanol (called "cellulosic") is paved with failures exactly because of this kind of thinking. Leading companies in USA such as Range Fuels, KIOR, Ineos Bio, etc failed after burning through millions of investors and government funds, proving that proper feedstocks are key in this market.

5 -Ok, so let's grow those sources of biomass in countries with lots of land such as Brazil, India, etc

That would mean being still dependent on foreign nations for our basic needs. Today we depend on oil producing countries for our transportation, and with that we would depend on developing nations for the same thing.

6 - So how do you plan to improve this EunergyCane?

By a number of techniques involving Big Data, Next-Generation Sequencing, Gene Alterations, and Field Testings. The process is described here.

7 - So the EUnergyCane is actually a sugarcane? Sugarcane does not grow in Europe!

Actually, it does. In the south of Spain it used to grow for over 1000 years and its peak, in the cityof Motril, it responded for half of the production of Spain's sugar, with 8 sugar mills in that city. That is where the EUnergyCane variety was identified, as throughout the years, the varieties being grown in that area naturally crossed and evolved, creating what is today the only truly autochthonous sugarcane variety in Europe.

8 - And why sugarcane?

Because it is the best photosynthesizer in the world, reaching peaks of efficiency of 7%. Because it can fix nitrogen, which means no need of fertilizers. Because it is a C4 plant, which means it is avoids photorespiration. Because it is highly adaptable, meaning it can be crossed and adapted to just about any place.

9 - And where will you develop this new variety?

Initially in our laboratories in UK and finally in a our fields in Spain. A research lab funded by the City of Motril which is part of this consortium is also under development. This lab, called "Centro de Investigacion y Desarrollo Europeo de la Cana de Azucar y Plantas Tropicales CIDECAPT", will also develop other varieties with more sugar, with the capacity to produce oil, etc

10 - And who will actually plant this variety?

Farmers from the lower belt of Europe, where the weather is milder. They will pay a yearly royalty based on the amount of hectares being planted: something extremely frequent in the agrimarket.

11 - And to whom they will sell their produce?

To cellulosic ethanol producers in Europe. Companies such as Dong Energy, Beta Renewables, DSM, etc which are developing technologies and building cellulosic ethanol plants, and which will need biomass which is low in lignin, high in cellulose, easy to cut, etc.

12 - Sounds interesting. How do I join?

The Consortium accepted applications until March 2015 and is now complete.

13 - What about patents and scientific papers?

Only organizations directly involved with the development are allowed to share those. Associate members are not as involved and therefore cannot appear on scientific papers. Funding companies can however are entitled to patent royalties.