The inedible South American native jatropha plant, could be a winning biofuel alternative, according to the Israeli company Galten. I spoke with Galten’s Doron Levi yesterday. He in Ghana, me from my home office in Jerusalem.
The biofuel industry, he said recognizes the potential in the jatropha’s oily seed (up to about 40 percent oil), but haven’t yet devised an efficient method for extracting it. Having developed a superior method for squeezing out the oil (it’s still secret, they say), Galten is positioning itself as a global leader in the alternative fuel source, having leased about half a million acres of land in Ghana to grow the plant.
Some 250 acres are now installed as a pilot site and the company hopes to be producing biofuel (from Jatropha curcas) in a year or two. CNN is calling it a dream fuel. With a backing of $10 million from Israeli investors, Galten's secretive extraction method could be worth more than gold.
Already grown in Ghana and other African countries, the jatropha is used as a hedge to keep foraging farm animals from grazing on crops. Although cultivating it can be dangerous (Levi told me there are some scary bush snakes to contend with), it is a pretty hearty and resilient plant, it lasts about 30-40 years, and is resistant to drought and pest attack.
Who knows, it might just be the future’s star biofuel.