Ductor to Revolutionize Fertilizer, Crude Oil with Bio-based Approach to Ammonia

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By MATT GALLAGHER, Red Herring

Harnessing the power of ammonia, Ductor hopes to revolutionize both garden farming and gas tanks by the end of this summer.

The company is developing what it claims to be the world’s first industrial scale ammonia and phosphate production technology based on a 100 percent biological process that actually reduces rather than contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This allows it to create a low cost fertilizer that doesn’t pollute, as well as a commercially viable way to produce a crude oil alternative made from algae.

On the fertilizer side, Ductor’s technology replaces current industrial production of ammonia from natural gas and mining-based phosphates production. Ammonia and phosphate production are the basic components of fertilizer manufacturing that are also big contributors to pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Under precise conditions as well as a specially patented brand population of bacteria, the company utilizes organic waste streams like slaughterhouse and food waste as feedstock materials to create ammonia through a natural process. Ammonia and phosphates are separated from the feedstock to make fertilizers, and the remaining biomass can be sold as black soil to optimize each resource. One hundred percent biologically produced, the fertilizers are equal in strength to chemically manufactured fertilizers, according to the company.

The company is also working on creating crude oil from algae in what it claims to be “the first commercially viable solution,” CEO Ari Ketola wrote in an email interview with Red Herring. Most R&D spent on creating crude oil from algae has focused on genetic manipulation of the algae, Ketola explained. Current approaches to crude oil also require intense energy to create it as well as an abundant supply of algae. Ductor’s bioprocess actually produces all the energy required, plus excess energy that it can then sell elsewhere. The company takes existing algae and optimizes growing conditions, using nutrients gathered through the Ductor bioprocess, as well as other undisclosed innovations. The resulting product has the needed mass to reach profitable production, according to Ketola.

The company is currently fine tuning its technology in a small scale bioprocess testing factory. Ketola estimates it is 1.5 years ahead of its original schedule. As a technology company, Ductor will license the technology to customers that will then manufacture the product.  Its technology will be ready for licensing by the end of the summer.

“Ductor’s innovation is a truly unique solution that will not only solve several key issues for our planet, but also creates a new, highly profitable business,” Ketola said. “The Ductor bioprocess is extremely economical as it produces its own energy for the process. Cost efficiency has been one of our leading bioprocess design principles, and we are absolutely confident that the overall business case is viable, also for developing countries.”

At the close of January, the company landed €1.1 million ($1.4 million) from TEKES (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Research), which it will use to complete technology development and start commercialization. This brings Ductor funding to total €3.85 million ($5 million) for the past year as the company previously in 2012 raised another round of  €2.75 million ($3.58 million).  Naturally, the company targets the energy industry, but recycling industries like vendor rendering and food waste will also benefit from its technology as well as organic fertilizer manufacturers.

“This new Ductor technology will change several matters for our planet, secure food production, reduce CO2 emissions, reduce fertilizer-based pollution, free farming land from energy crops to food production,” Ketola said.

If all goes well, Ductor’s technology should be contributing to gas stations and gardens by the next harvest.

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