Sapphire Energy Anticipates “Significant” Revenue Stream From Monsanto Alliance

3/9/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego biofuels startup Sapphire Energy added to its pedigreed credentials yesterday, revealing an undisclosed investment by St. Louis, MO-based Monsanto (NYSE: MON), a premiere agricultural biotech giant, as part of an extended collaborative agreement.

Sapphire established its exalted lineage a couple of years ago when it raised $100 million in Series B venture funding from Bill Gates’s investment arm, Cascades Investments; the venture capital firm founded by the Rockefeller family, Venrock; the Wellcome Trust (established in the U.K. to manage the fortune of the pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome); and Arch Venture Partners. The company also has secured more than $104 million in federal loans and grants to build a demonstration biorefinery near Las Cruces, NM.

Sapphire CEO Jason Pyle declined to comment on the amount of Monsanto’s minority investment, which is reportedly part of a larger Series C round that he also declined to discuss.

Jason Pyle

But Pyle was willing to discussing Sapphire’s collaboration with Monsanto, which he says has actually been underway for the past year—and is expected to generate “significant revenue” for Sapphire at a time when it is spending heavily to scale up its development of algae-based biofuels.

“What Monsanto really is to us is an opportunity to monetize Sapphire’s technology in a field that we’re not actually in,” Pyle told me. “It’s not just a strategic technical partnership, but also a kind of market partnership, where they are going to be able to monetize Sapphire’s products in [agricultural] markets we would not otherwise be able to access.

“We are in the business ourselves of identifying … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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