After seven years in business, algae company GreenFuel Technologies Corp. on Tuesday officially announced plans to build its first commercial project, a $92 million, 100-hectare algae farm in Spain, by 2011 (see GreenFuel Farms 100 Square Meters of Algae).
If the company is successful, the project – built in partnership with Madrid-based Aurantia –will produce more than Europe's current largest algae farm, operated by Ingrepro Micro Ingredients, which produces 80 metric tons of algae per year, according to The Canadian Press.
GreenFuel is starting smaller, however. It has completed a 100-square-meter algae farm, which it began testing about six weeks ago, and already has been successfully harvesting it, the company said. It plans to expand to 1,000 square meters of algae greenhouses next year before expanding to the 100 hectares (about 247.1 acres).
The news is a milestone for the company, which has been through a number of ups and downs in the last few years, including funding deals, layoffs and executive change.
Simon Upfill-Brown, a former Dow Chemical executive, took the top spot at GreenFuel Technology Corp. in July after a yearlong stint by interim CEO Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor and chairman of the GreenFuel board, who replaced founder Cary Bullock, now vice president of business development.
The announcement gave Greentech Media a chance to chat with Upfill-Brown after the whirlwind of three months at the head of GreenFuel.
Q: When we spoke with then-interim CEO Bob Metcalfe in June, he said GreenFuel planned to close a Series C round as early as August – but that it could take as long as next year – after having previously expected a close by the end of last year. Where are you at on that?
A: We're still working on the Series C, but this is something that we'll start to roll out in the next couple of months. We're in the early stage where rolling out funding seems to be a perennial thing. But we will be coming out with a Series C shortly.
Q: The press release says the 100-hectare project will cost $92 million to develop. Where will the money come from?
A: Our partners are funding the project. They will be eligible for some subsidies from regional and central government. More of our model will be to focus on the technology and working with people looking to develop a farm and make sure money on the farm once it's up and running.
Q: With the state of the economy and the financial crunch, are you worried that your future partners and customers could have trouble getting funding for these projects?
A: It could happen – never say never on these things – but this one seems to be doing fine. It all depends on the returns. Good projects could get funded.
Q: Metcalfe also said in June that GreenFuel hoped to announce at least one – and maybe two – U.S. projects by July. Are those still coming?
A: They are still coming. We're not ready to announce them yet. We prefer to wait until we're sure and we're working with a number of partners. We have to be careful that we don't overextend ourselves. We're a small company, with just over 40 people. But it's a very exciting place to be. The concept is terrific, we've got great people and we're making progress.