Solazyme's Modern Alchemy: Expanding Global Food Supply

| About: TerraVia Holdings, (TVIA)

We can also convert all kinds of non-food plant materials directly into heart healthy edible oils... we can expand the amount of food on the planet. -- Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson, describing the capacity of Solazyme’s current technology

Stop for a minute, and think about that.

When people think of Solazyme, the first instinct is to immediately group it together with all those other not-yet-functional biofuel concepts that sound great if they worked in the real world. Indeed, those who know better might even go as far as distinguishing it as an advanced biofuel maker, separated from the heavily subsidized conventional biofuel makers that rely on food-based resources as the input costs to its chemistry.

Yet those who truly understand Solazyme see more than just a part of a solution towards the Peak Oil crisis. Solazyme’s potential stretches beyond the realm of big oil companies. It holds the power of modern-day alchemy.

It's true, Solazyme does address the need for renewable biofuels from non-food sources that can be dropped into current-day infrastructure. This is why Chevron (NYSE:CVX) has invested in the company.

Yet the company has the unique advantage of branching beyond the fuels industry. Like many advanced biofuel makers, such as Gevo (NASDAQ:GEVO), Codexis (NASDAQ:CDXS), and Amyris (NASDAQ:AMRS), Solazyme addresses the need for solutions in the chemicals industry in a post-oil world. This is why Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) has partnered with the company.

Yet this is where Solazyme begins to stand alone. Solazyme is able to make exact replicas of known oils with varying chain lengths and saturations, with an above normal yield due to biotechnology. This is why Solazyme is able to enter into health products market, as the company is able to provide a palm kernel oil replica that is so heavily used in soap. This is why Unilever (NYSE:UL) has partnered with the company.

Yet oils are everywhere. With a Xerox-like ability to customize oils, a market that the company’s defining as “tailored oils” that can be met to specification, Solazyme is also able to produce consumable oils that are healthier to eat than their alternatives. Its for this reason that the company created a subsidiary specializing in food products.

Solazyme-Roquette Nutritionals has already developed a replacement for eggs, flour, butter, and olive oil. With healthier products that retained their taste, this is why food conglomerate Roquette Freres partnered with the company. More so, this is why they paid for all the capital expenditures to construct the first 50,000 metric ton manufacturing facility as part of the agreement to form the 50/50 joint venture of Solazyme-Roquette Nutritionals.

With a growing list of partners from the likes of the US Navy, United Continental Holdings (NYSE:UAL), Quantas Airways (OTCPK:QUBSF), Bunge (NYSE:BG), Honeywell (NYSE:HON), and several that remain undisclosed, the profile of Solazyme continues to expand.

However, while the list of supporters can be counted, the potential impact of the company’s technology remains possibly immeasurable. The ability to create black gold from switchgrass clippings is alchemy enough worthy of astonishment. Yet for Solazyme, the ability to expand the world’s food supply from a non-food source -- well, that’s just magical.

Disclosure: I am long SZYM.

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