Iceland’s Geothermal Focus
“We have developed a technology platform where we have the barley producing the protein of our choice in the seed. We introduce the gene with the information for the specific protein into the barley, and the gene is only expressed in the seed harvested. It is not in the leaves, roots or stems,” said Einar Mäntylä, Ph.D., a co-founder and vice-president, director for research liaison and intellectual property of Orf Genetics.
He noted, “The barley is not intended for use as food or feed but merely the means to produce proteins.” Those proteins are in the harvested seed that can be stored for years before extraction of the proteins through milling and biochemistry processing.
The company started with the business model to produce proteins for use by scientists around the world to use as cell culture media. That side of the business is likely to be overshadowed as the company is expanding operations to produce proteins for skin care products. The specific proteins, of the more than 40 that the company geneticist can have the barley grow, are “like vitamins for the skin,” Mäntylä said. The company has its own line of skin care products being distributed in 22 countries, including the U.S.
Another new agriculture technology business being developed by a greenhouse lettuce grower is Omega 3 algae production. Hafberg Thorisson, master grower, will be erecting a pilot project greenhouse with hydroponic pipes to grow algae for harvesting Omega 3 oil for human consumption, cosmetics and medical purposes. He doesn’t see growing “high-end market algae,” as a big risk compared to the one he took in the late 1970s when he established his greenhouse leaf lettuce business and had to do grocery store sampling to earn interest by Icelanders to eat greens.
FUEL FROM CARBON DIOXIDE
The mention of algae suggests algae for biofuels is a possible long-term technology that doesn’t have to consume land space. But other renewable fuels with a low carbon footprint can be produced with new technologies if investment is made in science.
Benedikt Stefánsson, Carbon Recycling International, is director of business development for a start-up company that is producing methanol from carbon dioxide emitted from a geothermal electric plant.
He explained that non-condensable gases, primarily carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, come from a geothermal power plant. Hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide can be separated to produce a pure stream of carbon dioxide for processing with electrolyzed water.