Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., announced that they have signed a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale. Sweet sorghum can be grown to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills.

Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres' sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres' sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.

Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton said that the company is pleased to be working more closely with Raízen, which has taken a leading role in adopting new agricultural and industrial technologies. "The ethanol industry in Brazil has a history of successfully competing against low-priced oil and we believe that sweet sorghum, which has lower production costs than sugarcane, can be further developed and scaled up as an integral part of the industry's feedstock supply," said Hamilton.

Raízen, a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan, has taken a keen interest in developing and scaling up sweet sorghum as a means to grow margins and increase supply for its sugar and ethanol facilities. The company has conducted field and industrial evaluations of Ceres' sweet sorghum hybrids since 2011.

"During the past seasons we have made significant and measureable improvements in performance and we remain optimistic that sweet sorghum can be used to rapidly scale up feedstock supplies following the current downturn in the sector," said Antonio Stuchi, Agro industrial director from Raízen. "By working with Ceres, we have early access to the latest innovations in seed products and leading experts in sorghum crop management."

Andre Franco, General Manager of Ceres Sementes do Brasil, said that the collaboration can facilitate adoption of Ceres sweet sorghum products and best practices throughout the sector. "By collaborating more closely with Raízen, we can continue to drive yields higher and address the industry's need for additional feedstock supply," said Franco.

In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the U.S., Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.