A Missouri agtech company is finding new ways to produce rubber – from sunflowers. Edison Agrosciences, based in St. Louis, Missouri, recently received a $1 million grant to research the crop’s viability for producing rubber in order to limit the Pentagon’s reliance on Asian supply.
With the Department of Defense using rubber for everything from truck tires to fighter jets, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s innovation arm, is concerned that if the Asian nations that produce 90% of the world’s latex should ever be hit by a fungus that severely limits production, the supply of the essential commodity would be in danger.
That is where Edison Agrosciences stepped in. It grew 120 sunflower varieties in greenhouses at Missouri’s Danforth Plant Science Center and found that their latex content varied from 0.2% to 1.8%. While the high end of that number is still small, Edison’s scientists also determined which genes control latex production and have shown how that can be increased through gene editing and predictive breeding.
Edison Agrosciences was founded in North Carolina in 2013 and moved to St. Louis three years later after BioSTL’s investment fund, BioGenerator, led an $800,000 investment round.
“There are great resources in Raleigh-Durham, but I was here and I felt the ecosystem was superior here for plant biotechnology opportunities,” said Edison Agrosciences CEO David Woodburn.
Missouri is the world leader in agtech, leading the way with innovative technology and research in plant science and animal health that is transforming agriculture. From Bayer’s global Seeds & Traits and North American commercial headquarters in St. Louis, to the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, Missouri’s $88 billion ag industries encompass more than 378,000 jobs across the state.