EthosGen develops ethanol feedstock greenhouse for military

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 03, 2009
EthosGen LLC, a business venture incubated by King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has secured a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Defense contract to study the feasibility of using greenhouses at or near an ethanol plant to grow a sorghum-family hybrid crop for the production of ethanol.

According to Greg Emery, a King's College faculty member and an EthosGen business partner, the goal of the project is to find a way to reduce the cost of procuring, transporting and protecting military fuel supply chains. "One of the important aspects of using a greenhouse means that you can put it just about anyplace in the world (including nonarable land)," he said. "The majority of the transportation costs that are involved with growing a crop and taking it to a centralized ethanol plant, producing it, and then shipping it out hundreds or thousands of miles in different directions can largely be overcome if you're able to grow the crop right at the source where you're going to blend it into gasoline."

Emery said EthosGen has been working with Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to develop a sorghum-family hybrid that maximizes the amount of fermentable juice that can be extracted from the plant when it's crushed. The company currently has two seven-acre greenhouses growing the potential ethanol feedstock at Van Hoekelen Greenhouses Inc. in
McAdoo, Pa. He said the company is working with greenhouse manufacturer U.S. Global Resources and Merle Jensen, a plant sciences researcher at the University of Arizona who
has devoted his career to controlled environment agriculture, to design a greenhouse that will be tailored specifically for EthosGen.

The company plans to build two greenhouses, one in a cool climate and one in a warm climate in locations yet to be determined, according to Emery. He added that EthosGen is seeking financial support from the state of Pennsylvania.