What Medtronic was to the start of a med-tech industry in Minnesota, Cargill could be to the start of a bio-based materials industry, the Biobusiness Alliance of Minnesota has observed. The alliance has been tracing the growth of a “family tree” of biopolymer, biochemical, and biofuel start-ups that have Cargill connections—spinoffs or companies founded or run by Cargill alumni. Here’s the tree as it looked in July this year.
Cargill BiOH: A business unit of Cargill. Makes a soy-based polymer used in flexible foams for furniture, mattresses and pillows, automotive seats.
NatureWorks: A spinoff wholly owned by Cargill. Technology primarily developed by cofounder and former Cargill chemist Patrick Gruber. NatureWorks’ Ingeo polymer is derived from sugars in corn and used to make plastic cups, food containers, compostable Sun Chips bags, and Toyota Prius floormats.
Elevance Renewable Sciences: Formed out of a Cargill development agreement with California-based Materia. Provides catalysts for making green chemicals from plant oils.
Draths Corporation: Key employees have come from Cargill, including recent CEO Jim Millis. Has developed proprietary bacterial organisms to make petrochemical equivalents from corn sugars and other feedstocks.
Segetis: A green chemistry company commercializing biobased polyols, plasticizers, and solvents. Cofounded by former Cargill scientist Olga Selifonova and her husband, Sergey. Patrick Gruber (Cargill, NatureWorks) is a director.
Green Harvest Technologies: Matches products and manufacturing processes with biopolymers. Commercializing BPA-free bioplastics for health care and home care markets. Patrick Gruber is a director.
Gevo: CEO is Patrick Gruber. Gevo uses microorganisms developed by Cargill to produce isobutanol biofuel.
Rivertop Renewables: CEO is James Stoppert, former CEO of Segetis and cofounder and CEO of NatureWorks predecessor Cargill Dow, LLC. Makes chemicals called glucarates—ingredients for biopolymers—from plant sugars.
XL Terra: Cofounded by Olga (Cargill, Segetis) and Sergey Selifonova. Developing a biopolymer made with xylose, or wood sugar, which is found in corn cobs.
Reluceo: Cofounded by Olga and Sergey Selifonova. Developing biodegradable polymers from non-food biomass sources. Also working on “transitional materials” that combine biobased materials with petroleum products.