FINDLAY, Ohio (Dec. 20, 2013) — PanAridus L.L.C., an Arizona agribusiness company, is joining a Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.-led consortium that’s working to develop guayule plant-based polymers for use in tire manufacturing.
Casa Grande, Ariz.-based PanAridus replaces Yulex Corp. as the primary developer of commercial processes to develop tire-grade rubber from the desert shrub guayule, Cooper said.
Yulex will continue to supply some latex under a separate contract, a Cooper spokesman said.
The consortium is funded in large part by a $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant. The BRDI is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to promote development and analysis of feed stocks, biofuels and bio-based products, Cooper said.
Cooper Tire, PanAridus, and other consortium partners, including Arizona State University (ASU) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA, are conducting research efforts aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for producing guayule-based solid rubber as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for biofuel applications.
The consortium members aim to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for petroleum-based synthetics and tropical-based natural rubber currently used in the manufacture of tires. If successful, new jobs in the growing and processing of guayule would be created for American workers. Cooper said.
"We are pleased to have PanAridus join our BRDI grant team,” said Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s vice president of Global Research and Development. “PanAridus brings significant expertise related to guayule seed and agronomic technology that will be extremely beneficial as the consortium continues progress toward our objectives.
PanAridus recently moved to an expanded agricultural operations facility in Casa Grande.
“PanAridus is honored to be part of such an esteemed group of colleagues working towards a goal of providing the first sustainable source of domestically produced natural rubber in our nation's history,” said Mike Fraley, Founder and CEO of PanAridus.
“Our steadfast focus on guayule genetics and agronomics heightens the likelihood of success for our grant partners, all of whom understand the link between competing favorably on a cost basis in the commodity based marketplace and commercialization.”
The Cooper spokesperson said Cooper and its consortium partners invited PanAridus into the project to “help move it forward.”