The state has invested $200,000 toward a initiative that seeks to develop an economically sustainable zero-waste conversion project in Hilo that will turn unmarketable papaya into biofuel and high-protein animal feed.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie presented a check from the state Department of Agriculture to the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center at an open house event Saturday.
PBARC has joined with Florida-based BioTork Hawaii LLC to develop the conversion project. The conversion process takes 14 days and involves the use of “organically optimized” algae and fungi developed and patented by BioTork. Other potential feedstock includes unmarketable sweet potato, sugar cane, mango, albizia and glycerol.
The state’s investment will help PBARC move the project to pilot scale, the next step before commercial production.
“This patented evolutionary technology is unique to the marketplace and places Hawaii in a leading position in the area of biofuel and feed research,” Abercrombie said. “With this technology, farmers can turn agricultural waste into an additional revenue stream, and local production of biofuel can lower dependence on Hawaii’s import of fossil fuels.
According to the state, 1,000 jobs could be created once the operation is fully under way.
Abercrombie also used the event to highlight the contributions of recently retired PBARC Director Dennis Gonsalves. Abercrombie declared Saturday as “Dr. Dennis Gonsalves Day” in recognition of his accomplishments, including his efforts to save Hawaii’s papaya industry from the ringspot virus.