Israel’s Univerve Working to Commercialize Algae
August 29, 2012
new company from Tel Aviv, Israel, called Univerve is working to turn algae into a clean third-generation renewable fuel. Ohad Zuckerman, the CEO and co-founder of Univerve in 2009, is devising a systems process to commercialize his company. With 20 years’ experience in the seed-breeding industry, Zuckerman believes that by applying the right stressors, the best algae for fuel will emerge.
“We are not working with transgenic crops, but are using traditional selection by putting the algae under stress, and then looking for certain traits, such as the robustness of the strains,” says Zuckerman.
Using saline-tolerant algae means that algae feedstock plants can be grown in deserts where land is plentiful and not much else will grow. And the system uses only brackish water, which is undesirable for most other purposes.
“We have a pilot plant right now in the Rotem Industrial Park near Dimona,” says Zuckerman. “By the end of 2012 we will have completed the pilot. This year we are doing streamlining, including extraction. By 2014 we will begin construction of the first project in Israel, and we have already started to exchange contracts with the owners of the land. As for projects outside of Israel, we have started working with American companies who have sent us their water for testing, and we are going to conduct the trials.”
Univerve is seeking financing of $5 million, some of which will be earmarked for building the first commercial plant. The company’s four-part system will focus on selecting the right strains of algae; effective cultivation and harvesting; and – with an American partner – extraction of the oil.