ST. LOUIS — Agricultural biotech company Edison Agrosciences Inc. is expanding its research on sunflower rubber technology after being granted $1 million in new government funding.
Phase II of the research project, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will develop Edison's initial technology further for the production of natural rubber from sunflower plants, the company announced.
As part of the project, Edison will collaborate with St. Louis-based Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to increase the level of rubber naturally produced in the leaves of the sunflower plant.
According to Edison, sunflower leaves contain 1% to 2% of their weight in natural rubber.
"Increasing that amount by a few percentage points would make sunflower an economical — and geographically diverse — source of natural rubber," it added.
"We are pleased that DARPA has moved to continue this project to a second phase," Edison Agrosciences CEO David Woodburn said.
Edison, he said, is using "an already commercialized crop" to develop NR supply, in order to leverage grower experience.
"By applying standard agricultural biotechnology, we plan to provide farmers with a profitable new crop while addressing vulnerabilities in the supply of a strategic material," he added.
Mr. Woodburn has stated in the past he believes latex derived from sunflowers could replace up to 80% of the natural rubber the U.S. imports annually.