CASA GRANDE, Ariz.—PanAridus L.L.C., an agribusiness company specializing in the development and production of rubber from the desert shrub guayule, is expanding into a new agricultural operations facility in Casa Grande.
The move to the new facility, which includes an 8,000-sq.-ft. building on about a half acre of land, will be complete before January, according to PanAridus CEO Michael Fraley.
The new facility will include the seed research, field and harvesting divisions, while administration and manufacturing will remain in the original building in Casa Grande, according to Fraley.
PanAridus will hire three workers to staff the new facility, bringing the company up to about 20 full-time employees, Fraley said.
Genetics and agronomics will be the focus at the new facility, and indeed are the key to PanAridus' future growth plans, according to Fraley.
"Our main goal is to have highly valued, proprietary genetic material," he said. "What we need is increased yield that allows customers to have increasing amounts of the material to evaluate."
In the autumn of 2012, PanAridus became the first company publicly to offer samples of its patented guayule rubber to all tire companies that wanted to evaluate the material as an alternative to Hevea rubber from Southeast Asia.
Since then, according to Fraley, the company has developed not only ever more high-yielding guayule seeds, but also extraction equipment that allows PanAridus to be the only company in the world to rolled sheets of guayule rubber.
"Throughout 2014, we'll have no commercial contracts, but we'll produce hundreds, even thousands of pounds of rubber for the manufacture of tires," he said.
All of the tires to be produced in 2014 are prototype only, according to Fraley. Currently tire makers are evaluating which parts of the tire—the sidewall, the tread, etc.—guayule rubber is best suited for, he said.
PanAridus plans to open a pilot guayule rubber processing plant by the third quarter of 2014, according to Fraley. The company plans to make further important announcements in early 2014, including a partnership with a major tire company, he said.