Florida ag department announces grant recipients

By Kris Bevill
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awarded 12 companies with $25 million in grants from the "Farm to Fuel" program in January, part of the 25x'25 initiative spearheaded by Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson. The initiative is designed to spur the state's agricultural industry to produce 25 percent of Florida's energy needs by 2025.

The grant awards included $4 million to Liberty Industries, which plans to construct a $38 million ethanol plant in Liberty County, just west of Tallahassee. The plant will produce ethanol and electricity by using forest waste products as a feedstock. Liberty Industries President Sam Hatcher said grant money will be used for equipment and the construction of the plant. The company is in the pre-permitting process and plans to begin construction in 2009.

The University of Florida received $500,000 toward the research and development of a catalytic chemical reactor system to convert woody biomass into biodiesel.
Sigarca Inc. was awarded nearly $500,000 to aid in the construction of a demonstration plant that will process horse waste into renewable energy. The $1.5 million plant will be located on the grounds of the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion in Ocala.

The University of Central Florida received $498,000 that will partially fund a research project designed to demonstrate technology developed by the university that uses an advanced thermocatalytic process to convert farm and animal waste into renewable energy.

The Florida Institute of Technology received a $415,000 grant for researching various strains of microalgae capable of producing biodiesel.

Neptune Industries received $158,000 to develop a pilot-scale floating algae production system in quarry lakes in south Florida that will supply the feedstock to the biodiesel industry.

Southeast Biofuels LLC, a subsidiary of Xethanol Corp., received $500,000 for a pilot plant that will convert citrus peels to ethanol.

These companies are required to match the grants with their own money or otherwise raised funds. They are actually contributing more than $150 million of their own resources. "We're not looking to build our own state-funded ethanol or biodiesel plants, or completely fund other projects," said Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Jay Levenstein. "We like to be in a position where we can help out, but they've got to come to the table with some of their own assets. I know from talking to some of these companies that funding like this really puts them over the top of the hill as far as being able to complete their projects."